12 Oregon State University students spent a day working at The Wetlands Conservancy Starr Creek Oxbow in Alsea Bay Preserve.
It was sobering to see the amount of trash littered throughout the forest and Alsea Bay shores. After finding a lone flip flop about every 100 feet as well as Styrofoam bits even more frequently, we learned that the bay is a final resting place for a lot of trash. From tires to shoes to refrigerator doors, it was astounding to see not only the variety of objects but the volume of trash. Between 12 of us, we filled over 15 garbage bags with trash that was collected over less than a mile of coastline. Even with the environmental movement of the past few decades that has promoted recycling and proper waste disposal, we realized how much work is left to do in terms of public awareness of where people’s trash ends up when not disposed of properly and how it can impact wildlife.
“Earth Week” is important for us in the Environmental Sciences Club, it gives us a chance to connect with organizations that directly relate to the courses we have taken, and the career paths we have chosen. It allows us to participate in active field work, while also gaining an understanding of what it is like to work for an ecological conservation organization.
Paul Engelmeyer (TWC Land Steward) really opened our eyes to the variety of restoration careers and the benefits of being involved with an organization centered on positive environmental change. A day of environmental restoration work allowed us to see the damage that humans are causing and experience and, think about the consequences of our actions
This opportunity made us more aware of current environmental issues our state is facing (e.g. invasive ivy and scotch broom). It also allowed us to spend a day outside gaining hands-on experience perhaps not attainable from a book, and presented us with an opportunity to meet other people with similar environmental concerns.
Volunteer field days help in managing and maintaining TWC preserves, but in the words of Paul Engelmeyer it does a lot more, “It feels great to share our story with young people, but most importantly to welcome them into the conservation world and offer them a voice in the story”. Getting fresh eyes and perspective on our preserves and listening to their reflections and vision of work for the future is provides a huge benefit.