Confessions of a Mediocre Project Coordinator

Sandy initiates Cohort V to the VA Adopt-a-Trail Project, March 2017, at Braley Pond. Photo by Deb Pugh, Cohort V.

Sandy Greene on Being Good Enough!

An appeal for Bird & Wildlife Trail site monitors for 2022

From the first project I took on at Headwaters Master Naturalists, I have been capitalizing on everyone else’s good energy and ideas: piggybacking on water monitoring projects, adding on to school field trips, grafting on to park plantings.  This was our chapter project strategy in the beginning. My job was to establish our first chapter project list, write up the project proposals and hustle them.  It wasn’t very well organized, but it was good enough!

In my first new project attempt, I tried to turn wildflower watching into a competitive tournament – not a big success.  I also called off one year’s hikes because of an “iffy” weather forecast.  It didn’t rain at all, and I had to hide out the whole day. Fortunately, Chip stepped up to do a fabulous job of our signature wildflower walks for years thereafter. And we sent lovely photographs and invitations of our wildflowers to elected officials and the media, sometimes even put up posters. Last year, our gamble on the Mothers Day Warblers and Wildflowers day for the public paid off. So, good enough!

Sandy with Ginny Hoffman, Cohort III, at the beginnings of the pollinator garden at Natural Chimneys, April 2015.

Then I tried a chapter project in support of dwindling monarch populations, and somehow we had four energetic teams of “Matty Nats” establishing pollinator waystations on public lands, and maintaining them for three years.  We even had a bus tour to go visit all of them.  They were fabulous, with original interpretive signs. Two of these waystations still exist. And many more pollinator gardens sprang up, including Harrisonburg’s Pollinator Trail, with HMN’s helping. Good enough!

Sometimes, projects had active HMN participation and the blessing of the Project Committee, but just needed a project description and coordinator name in order to fit into our website for recording those hours.  I didn’t do anything except type and post on the website. But that was good enough.

When I began to do Outreach, I signed up to participate in all the local fairs and events, and created some crowd-friendly (I thought) displays.  Were they all successful? Not so much.  Like the fake scat display.  The Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity display?  I loved it! But not great in cooler weather or wind.  The puppets?  Too popular, as they somehow walked away, with the Identiflyer cards. That was mysterious. But still friendly and welcoming enough, with many wonderful HMN volunteers.

Finally, along came the request from VMN and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (then Game and Inland Fisheries).  Could we adopt our Bird and Wildlife Trails, and monitor them every quarter?  All Master Naturalist Chapters were encouraged to do this, but we have three loops, and 26 sites.  Maybe we could try one loop?  The biggest one, North River, with 10 sites. A good enough start, with eager site volunteers, if we just had a coordinator name.  Could I do just a good enough job? I would try.

Did I call monitors to remind them to go out to their sites?  Nope, but I enjoyed every chat and e-mail from monitors, and kept lots of notes. Did I get my reports in exactly on time? No.  But when I did send them, they were accurate and full of monitor details.   Did I visit every site that monitors missed?  Yes, but not right away.  Did I learn how to use eBird?  Yes, finally.  Now I search eBird before I go out to visit sites, so I know what species to look for.  Did I learn how to use iNaturalist?  Yes, and I have sent one whole post. I learn so much when I explore the website. Good enough, but just barely.

And then along came Cheryl, who took on a second and a third loop of the Bird and Wildlife Trail, and who elevated our mission.  She took wonderful photos and hustled new monitors.  We strategized, joined the local bird clubs, met with the North River Ranger District staff.  Suddenly, together, we could do a really good job. 

Now we are undertaking the switch to direct, real-time monitor’s reports, as well as recruiting for a year at a time for each site.  We talked on the phone this week about filling out the 26 initial CitSci forms before the spring quarter, calling and thanking each monitor, signing (or re-signing) up people for this year.  We agreed to try to do a good enough job, but to be kind to ourselves and our monitors. 

I hope these confessions give you the confidence to sign up as a monitor, or even to coordinate a loop.  If you have worried that you wouldn’t be able to do a good enough job, or that other people must already know about eBird, or that you wouldn’t want to get stuck forever with a site, don’t fret.  Just call!  You are good enough, and we need your help!  

Sandy Greene, Cohort I, January 2022
540-487-1224
greenes104 [at] aol.com