Bringing awareness to the benefits of service travel

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Tommie and Theresa Berger: Adventure Camp Conservation Heroes

Tommie and Theresa Berger Honored by Field and Stream Magazine

Image source: Hayspost.com

In keeping with our last few posts about wildlife volunteering, I’d like to introduce you to a couple of conservation volunteer heroes: Tommie and Theresa Berger, the masterminds behind Kansas’ Outdoor Adventure Camp. They were finalists in Field and Stream Magazine’s Conservation Heroes of the Year contest in 2011 but they were volunteering to make a difference long before that.

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A Strong Case for Wildlife Volunteering

Volunteer Working with Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos

Image source: Savingparadise.wildlifedirect.com

I’m a biology student working on completing a few requirements before I apply to graduate school, so for me wildlife volunteering is the most attractive volunteering option out there. I’m very sensitive emotionally, so I know working with sick children or in deeply impoverished villages is not the thing for me. I wish it was—I would love to work with people—but I know myself and I’d be a nervous wreck. Of course, working with endangered or imperiled animals carries its own emotional risks but somehow the disconnect—the inhuman eyes, the lack of a spoken language—helps me create an emotional distance. Also working with animals, especially in foreign countries out in the vast wilderness, has this Avatar-like new frontier appeal.

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White Nose Syndrome: Volunteering to Protect Our Nation’s Bats

Little Brown Bats, Myotis lucifigus, with Geomyces destructans

Image source: Publicbroadcasting.net

Recently, I started volunteering to help study bats in New York State. They’re fascinating. They’re the only mammals that fly. They use their ears to hunt at night. Because of their tricky habitat and nocturnal nature, there is a whole lot we don’t know about their behavior. In fact, they are one of the world’s least-studied mammals. (Caveat: we’re talking living mammals and not counting the giant rat recently found in the crater of Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea.) My interest in bats has only increased as they’ve been hit with an unprecedented and alarmingly devastating disease: white nose syndrome.

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Preserving Wildlife and Wild Places with the Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society's Logo

Image source: Conservationheroes.blogspot.com

The Wildlife Conservation Society was founded in 1895. Back then it was called the New York Zoological Society and its main project was to create a zoo in the Bronx, fittingly called The Bronx Zoo. Today the Wildlife Conservation Society is an NGO (non-governmental organization). We hear all manner of opinions about NGOs, some good, some bad. There have even been a few documentary film-style investigations on the subject. As the name would suggest, they are not technically affiliated with a government, but that is slightly misleading. Many NGOs work with governments on specific projects or policies, though they exclude government workers from membership. Of course, when you are a large organization like Amnesty International or the Wildlife Conservation Society, politics are an inevitable part of the game, and that turns off a lot of potential volunteers. Let’s remember though, many NGOs do real, responsible work, and volunteering with one presents many potential benefits.

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The Crocodile Hunter’s Legacy: Volunteering Aboard the Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin Holding a Young Crocodile

Image source: Masey.com.au

While some people might think it silly, one of the people I admire most is the late, great Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. Yes, he was goofy and flamboyant. Sure, he hammed it up for the cameras. But when it came down to caring, generosity, and real work to make a difference, Irwin was a hero. While he wasn’t a volunteer himself—Irwin ran his family’s Australia Zoo—he welcomed volunteers from all over the world, encouraging them to learn about the Australian wildlife, and to spread his message of conservation.

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