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Wetlands Watch seeks volunteers

Posted: Monday, Jan 9th, 2017

Contributed Watsonville Wetlands Watch docent Sharon Clark (right) leads a tour for students recently.

Annual docent training set to begin

WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Wetlands Watch docent Sharon Clark has always relished the moment when a child focuses their pair of binoculars for the first time.

"They can suddenly see from a different perspective," she said. “A new world opens up."

On Jan. 18, Watsonville Wetlands Watch will begin its annual Docent Training Program. Every year, new docents spend two months training to work for the organization, learning from experts about the cultural and natural history of the wetlands.

Clark has been with Watsonville Wetlands Watch for eight years. She had no prior experience in science or being a docent before going through the training, but claims it has become a very important part of her life.

Another docent, Dan Merritt, was previously a biology professor who saw volunteering at Watsonville Wetlands Watch as an opportunity to make a difference in the community. He strongly believes in the training program.

"The program is very well-paced and directed," he said.

The seven-week course will consist of presentations every Wednesday evening, and field trips on Saturday mornings, which give students the opportunity to visit little known areas of the wetlands.

This particular training will focus on how to facilitate field trips and help children connect to nature.

Merritt credits the employees at Watsonville Wetlands Watch for their dedication and passion to the training.

“They focus on interpretive learning, meaning, you’re asking them questions more than just getting a lecture," she said. "You get a lot out of it.”

Watsonville Wetlands Watch is a nonprofit founded in 1990 to help stop development on the uplands of Struve Slough. To this day, it seeks to educate people of all ages about the local wetlands and the importance of protecting them.

Every year, the organization not only gives tours and field trips, but also hosts the annual Habitat Festival and Native Plant Sale, and various restoration projects. They also partner with larger regional events such as the Monterey Bay Birding Festival and the Migration Festival at Natural Bridges State Park.

Recently, the organization's reach has grown further, especially with their education programs. Volunteer Coordinator Kathy Fieberling explained that due to this growth, docents are in high demand.

"We definitely don't have enough staff right now," she said.

Field trips and tours with the organization have surged in popularity with local schools. Docents are needed to help with these field trips.

Both Clark and Merritt mentioned their love of working with the visiting schools. Most children are in the third, fourth and sixth grades, but sometimes they host high school students as well.

“It’s wonderful to see these young people become aware of the natural beauty all around us,” Merritt said.

For information and to sign up for this year’s training, contact Fieberling at 345-1226 or kathy@watsonvillewetlandswatch.com.

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