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Earth Team Volunteer Benefits USDA with Wetland Expertise

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

When not in class, Molly Stetz volunteered her time to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), assisting with the agency’s efforts to restore wetlands and curb other environmental concerns.

As part of National Volunteer Week, NRCS is celebrating the contributions of volunteers like Stetz that help the agency advance the conservation mission through Earth Team.

Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology at the State University of New York at Brockport, donated more than 900 hours to NRCS through the agency’s Earth Team volunteer program.

“Volunteers are an integral part of our agency,” NRCS District Conservationist Heath Eisele said. “In a one-employee field office, every bit of assistance helps.”

Stetz worked closely under Eisele’s supervision assisting with many of the day-to-day operations of the office, including compliance reviews, highly erodible land slope measurements, construction checks and wetland plant identification.

“She helped us with so many different projects, it was like having another NRCS position on staff,” Eisele said.

She took the lead in creating a map guide of the Tonawanda Creek watershed and revised a guide on another creek watershed. These are used to show visitors and residents boat launch areas, fishing locations and other attractions within the watershed.

When she wasn’t in the field, Stetz was offering top-notch computer support with geographic information systems, or GIS, and developed innovative techniques for identifying potential natural resource concerns.

She conducted the annual monitoring of seven wetland easement sites throughout Genesee County, N.Y. Her knowledge of wetland plant identification and hydrology was critical to the success of the project, Eisele said.

Her volunteer work helped her with her master’s thesis in wetland ecology. Stetz and her professor received $5,000 as part of a grant from USDA Rural Development for agriculture and water quality studies.

Stetz’s service won her the national individual service award from the Earth Team. Only four of these awards are given out each year. To read more volunteer stories or see how to sign up to be an Earth Team volunteer, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/EarthTeam.

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