HRWC is not actively recruiting volunteers for Natural Areas Field Assessments at this time. However, we are always looking for volunteers who have plant identification experience and/or a background in terrestrial ecology. If you’re interested in volunteering for the Natural Areas Assessment Program, contact Kate Laramie

Frequently Asked Questions

What are field assessments?

HRWC conducts field assessments of forests, wetlands, and grasslands in the Huron River watershed to a) gather data about remaining natural areas in the watershed, and b) to provide ecological information to landowners, local governments, and conservancies interested in protecting natural lands from development.

Field assessments are conducted by HRWC staff with support from volunteers. Field assessors identify plant species and note ecological characteristics present in an area such as hydrologic conditions, vegetation structure, the presence of invasive species, etc. HRWC typically conducts 5-15 assessments each season between May and early September.

What are field assessments like?

Every field assessment is different – Some assessments involve semi-strenuous walking/hiking through thick woods or wetland areas, while others are more mild adventures through open wooded areas or old farm fields. We often do not know what an assessment will be like until we’re on site, however we do our best to provide volunteers with some information about how physically challenging assessments will be before you decide whether you want to join the team for a specific assessment.

Field Assessment teams consist of 3-4 people, including at least 1 “plant person” – someone who has either taken a plant identification class, or has become very familiar with wildflowers, grasses, and trees of southeast Michigan by spending time in the great outdoors. Assessments take approximately 3 hours and are conducted in all types of weather, except during storms or when temperatures are dangerously hot.

What does HRWC do with the data?

HRWC staff and volunteers have assessed over 300 properties and 900 unique ecosystems in the Huron River watershed! All of this valuable data is housed in a database that HRWC uses to prioritize areas in the watershed for other program work, including landowner outreach, water quality monitoring, and land protection efforts.

Results from individual field assessments are compiled into a Field Assessment Report, which provides baseline information about the ecological integrity and level of disturbance for each ecosystem surveyed on a particular property. Reports can be valuable tools for landowners interested in protecting natural lands from development or restoring natural areas, however reports do not provide direct land management or restoration recommendations, and HRWC does not offer individualized land management plants. If landowners are interested in restoring or managing the ecosystems on their property, or permanently protecting their property via a conservation easement, HRWC can recommend conservancy groups, restoration companies, or general resources for landowners to pursue.

Land conservancies and community preservation programs use the data gathered to promote permanent protection of those lands identified as the highest quality and most important for protection of the Huron River.