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Volunteering Through the Camera’s Lens

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (left) and Ohio Earth Team volunteer Alex Snyder in Zanesville, Oh., in Sept. 2009.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (left) and Ohio Earth Team volunteer Alex Snyder in Zanesville, Oh., in Sept. 2009.

Graduate student Alex Snyder finds inspiration through the lens of his camera. While completing his graduate degree at Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability, Snyder found time to volunteer with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through its volunteer program, Earth Team.

Snyder contributed his talents by capturing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visits to Ohio—Snyder has served as the Secretary’s Ohio photographer on four separate occasions.

Snyder learned the value of volunteering at a young age from his grandparents, who volunteered for years in the Ohio park system. His love of photography began while spending his summers helping park officials and visitors in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, one of the most naturally diverse Appalachian regions.

Snyder volunteers not only with NRCS, but also with the Friends of Hocking Hills, a non-profit organization of outdoor enthusiasts who partner with the Hocking Hills State Park to ensure a better place for nature education in the region. As an ex-officio officer for the Friends of Hocking Hills, he is currently working on both a book celebrating the area.

Snyder also serves as social media coordinator for The Photo Society, a group of over 80 National Geographic photographers. As if that’s not enough on his plate, Alex has started a successful business in commercial, wildlife and conservation photography.

While earning his bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, Snyder purposely took challenging and diverse courses to build a comprehensive knowledge base in preparation for a demanding career. He has earned a specialty in biological sciences and mastered scientific writing skills, and has studied interactive multimedia. Snyder tries to blend all of his interests to be a well-rounded photographer.

NRCS has benefitted from Snyder’s lifelong dedication to volunteerism, amazing photographic talents and belief in the NRCS conservation mission. His photos have been used by USDA to capture the Secretary’s travels and by NRCS in Ohio in newsletters, in brochures and on the web.

While some say anyone can take a photo, we at NRCS in Ohio know better—Snyder’s ability to capture timeless conservation events by using his extraordinary talents is truly a gift he’s shared through the Earth Team volunteer program.

Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.

President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation deeming this week National Volunteer Week, encouraging every American to observe the week by volunteering in service projects across the country and pledging to make service part of their daily lives.  To get started on a project near you, visit

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