We called, you answered: At the beginning of 2018, we put out a call for volunteers to join our team and the response has been amazing. Now, six months after the official launch of our organization, it warms my heart to announce that more than 400 volunteers have pledged their support. Collectively, you represent all 23 states and more than 60 communities. Thank you for taking that first step of signing our registry. Help us recruit new volunteers by sharing our message with friends, family, and colleagues.
A brief explanation of our model: We believe that community-led conservation is vital to saving our vanishing southeastern grasslands. Major financial investments are critical to large-scale conservation efforts across broad regions (e.g. purchasing large properties, restoring thousands of acres) and to providing core infrastructure (e.g. staffing, equipment, resource) needed to guide those efforts. However, so many of the remaining grasslands of the southeastern U.S. are small and it can be difficult to justify to philanthropic foundations, corporate sponsors, and government agencies (who may want "more bang for their buck") why funding small-scale grassland conservation is important. Unfortunately, many of these small remnants are all that is left for some types of grassland ecosystems and we simply can't turn our backs on them. These types of grasslands, those that are small, hard to manage, located in or near urban areas, in need of frequent attention, are especially well-suited to volunteer-led efforts like those we have studied in Chicago.
The Chicago-style model of conservation proves that grassroots, community-led approaches work and indeed the best grassland restorations seem to be those that are largely volunteer-driven. This model requires strong communication, organization, and coordination at local and regional scales. It must be guided by science and work prioritized according to threats, opportunities, and need (similar to emergency room triage). SGI's Grassland Advisory Committee will help to identify and prioritize conservation needs both throughout the 23-state focal region and within each ecoregion.
Local Coordination: First, we are asking for people who are willing to commit time each week to serving in a volunteer leadership/coordination role as a steward. Stewards will help to cultivate and guide a team or multiple teams of volunteers that will work at the local level on one or more projects.
Individual team members (Volunteers) can choose the role that best fits them (see roles below). For a small town, one steward and a few dozen volunteers may be sufficient. In larger cities multiple stewards and hundreds of volunteers may be needed. Stewards and volunteers will mostly work on projects within 30 min to 1 hour of of their homes.
Regional Coordination: At larger statewide and regional scales, SGI will hire Coordinators who will work with multiple stewards across many communities and often across state lines, usually within ecoregions (colored polygons in the accompanying map). The coordinators will assist in training, outreach, finding and securing resources, soliciting help from other NGOs, agencies, and experts, and will circulate around the region to assist with on-the-ground projects, working side-by-side with volunteers and stewards.
Am I a suitable volunteer for SGI? Whether you are 9 or 90, a city-dweller or wild child of the wilderness, a high-school dropout or a doctor, and no matter if you live on the coast, the mountains of Appalachia, or on the plains of central Texas, SGI has a role for you. To sign up as a volunteer just click the button below and don't forget to share with your friends.
Am I suitable as a steward for SGI? If you are a person who enjoys leading by example, performing a variety of tasks, and have strong leadership skills (e.g., good at motivating, inspiring, organizing, planning, delegating, communicating, and most importantly DOING)--then you might have just what it takes. So far we have had 12 people who have indicated they want to be a steward, but we need more. Potential stewards should carefully consider if this is something they have time and the desire to do. If you are ready to commit then we need you! Once committed, we ask you to commit to one year of service for starters, with the option to continue beyond that. Click the button become a steward.
Each icon below illustrates a different type of volunteer opportunity with SGI!
Do you need help selecting a volunteer role or roles?
We are working to put into place a series of volunteer roles that will appeal to a broad swath of the public. For starters, we've listed several questions below to help you identify the specific role or roles you'd like to play.
Enjoy studying, observing, or photographing wildflowers, birds, butterflies, etc.?
Enjoy growing native plants or farming?
Conservation Horticulture, Farming Natives.
Interested in how technology or geographic information systems (GIS) can benefit grassland conservation?
Data Entry, Mapping
Interested in science or data analysis?
Do you want to do something that is physically challenging? Like getting dirty, hot, and sweaty?
Invasive Species Removal, Management, Restoration
Like working in a large group setting?
Seed Collecting, Invasive Species Removal, Management, Restoration, Data Entry, Herbarium Work, Rescue
Rather work alone or in small groups?
Biodiversity Documentation, Data Entry, Herbarium Work, Historical Research, Mapping
Do you have special skills as a fundraiser, connector, teacher, public speaker, artist, marketer, graphic designer, videographer, photographer, etc.?
Advocacy, Connector, Teaching, Speaker Bureau, etc.