Volunteer Service hours are only recorded for those working on approved Projects or Committees. General membership meetings and other chapter support activities count as Admin hours, not as Volunteer Project hours, but are still part of your overall volunteer hours. Travel time of 30 minutes each way may be included for work on Approved Committee activities and Approved Projects.
Our latest up-to-date description of all recordable hours is contained in our VMS Opportunities document maintained on our Library page – https://txmn.org/elcamino/library/volunteer-hours-advanced-training-meeting-reporting-forms-and-templates/
The individual opportunities are copied identically to the VMS Opportunity descriptions in the VMS system.
Volunteer hours spent in committee meetings and approved projects, as well as for individual preparation or follow up (including emails, phones calls, discussions), if all are related to conducting the business of the chapter or the committee, or within the specific scope of the approved project, are recordable.
General discussions with others, personal backyard wildlife projects, activities in support of your Wildlife Management Valuation, individual research or education, or in general any nature activities performed on your own personal properties are all certainly encouraged for your own education and enjoyment and contributions to nature, however, those activities would NOT count toward TMN Volunteer Service Hours, UNLESS they are done directly in support of one of the approved Opportunities. So please DO build your own native wildscapes, monarch gardens, supplemental feeders, nest houses etc., just don’t claim those as TMN Service Hours.
Reading books and providing book reviews are not recordable Volunteer Service hours, but may be AT hours. A Book Club Group could be organized where a group of members all read a particular book on nature, then meet regularly to discuss the books using guided questions and a member facilitator. The members get Advance Training credit for the time IN the group discussion but NOT for reading the book – just like a member as part of a new training class gets credit for coming to and attending class but they don’t get credit for their homework of reading different units in the TMN curriculum manual.
This Opportunities list was somewhat based on the following 4 past major areas of projects and committees which had various approved projects for Volunteer Service hours. This does not currently reflect the structure of our VMS Opportunities but is useful for thinking of areas to contribute, and the general guidelines still apply. Review all the wonderful opportunities below, and then if in doubt, or for guidance, send a query to the Volunteer Projects Coordinator prior to participation.
1. Chapter Operating Committees
As defined in our Chapter Operating Handbook, the following constitute standard committees, with chairs approved by vote of the Officers, and offer great volunteering opportunities in managing and leading chapter functions:
- Advanced Training and Volunteer Projects
- Training Classes
Members are encouraged to contact any chair to get involved with the above committees. See who they are here.
2. Major “Community Outreach” Projects
Projects with major community focus, interaction and outreach defines “Community Outreach”.
- Milam County Nature Festival, email ElCaminoRealMasterNaturalist at gmail dot com for the current chairs of the current festival.
- The Nature of Milam County projects – documenting our county’s natural resources in our website’s nature pages, contact Katherine Bedrich, project coordinator, or one of the section leaders.
- Special Projects as they are defined such as Milano Junction Memorial Garden / Bring Back the Monarchs (past projects included Millennium Seed Bank and Big Trees of Milam County).
These projects may be featured in their own sections, along the right navigation panel of this site. Other Community Outreach projects may be approved which are not part of this Major Project section. Examples of past and current events include:
- Apple Tree Day Care Nature Education
- Rockdale Elementary After school programs
- Ag in the Classroom programs
- Thorndale Wilderness Club activities
- Our Quarterly Newsletters with very wide distribution, as well as our Annual Newsletter Booklets placed in public libraries, schools and elsewhere.
- Various presentations in public forums on a variety of nature topics, such as Bees, Water Ecology, Drought Effect on Trees, and many more.
Note: Individual time spent in non project oriented general nature conversations (meetings, phone calls, emails etc.) regarding the general TMN mission, conservation or other general nature topics, whether with people inside or outside the chapter, are just part of being interested and involved in nature and the TMN program, and are not recordable as “outreach” volunteer hours. Generalized “reaching out” by itself is not a “Community Outreach Project“.
3. Interest Committees and other projects
Our ever growing and changing list of active committees makes for a broad opportunity for involvement by chapter members. Interest Committees are formed when any person or group wishes to organize for a like minded special purpose, with Board approval. These interest groups then define specific volunteer projects in keeping with our mission and the definition of approved volunteer projects, including perhaps the development and conducting of Advanced Training opportunities for members and the public, or researching and publishing articles on nature topics for local newspapers or our newsletter. They would become the recognized “goto” experts in various fields of nature.
- Amphibians, chair TBD
- Bats, chair TBD
- Bogs in South Central Texas, Joyce Conner / Dale Kruse
- Birding, chair Ann Collins
- Entomology, chair TBD
- Fish, chair Sue Taylor
- Highway Cleanup, chair TBD
- Horned Lizard, chair TBD
- Lichens, chair Phyllis Shuffield
- Mammals, chair TBD
- Moth Project group, chair TBD Download Moth Project Data Form
- Native Plants, chair TBD
- Nature Photography, chair Don Travis
- Nature Book reading club, (see note above on this) TBD
- Paleo Nature group, chair TBD
- Public School Education, chair TBD
- Wildflowers, chair Debbi Harris
- Trees, chair TBD
In addition, the Chapter Board may initiate specific committees for specific purposes, such as Chapter rules and procedures reviews, nominating committees, etc. which would generally be short term in nature but still eligible for volunteer service hours. All these above committees make up the heart and soul of our chapter, encouraging involvement and sharing in like interests. Lots of fun to be had! And a good way to earn volunteer service hours.
4. State Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, and other Parks and Wildlife or AgriLife Extension “Citizen Science” type projects.
Volunteer projects that are automatically approved for ECRMN volunteer hours, and some may not require an approval form unless for documentation purposes, include:
- All Texas Parks and Wildlife TMN program office supported projects, such as their Citizen Science Monarch or Turtle Watch, or their Nature Tracker Programs on amphibians, mussels, box turtles, horned lizards, whooping cranes, hummingbird roundups, lost lady bug, etc. Recordable hours are limited to the specific scope of each specified program as documented in that literature, ie observation and report submissions, and do not include general conversations or non project related individual research. No local approval form is needed for the State sponsored events, just report the hours normally.
- Those “Master Naturalist related” projects supported within Milam County by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office or Texas Master Gardeners. An approval form is requested to ensure the “related” project fits our guidelines, for our documentation purposes as a non-chapter project, and to initiate our tracking and logging of hours.
- Other Texas Master Naturalist chapters’ approved volunteer projects, for ECRMN members who may wish to participate. An approval form is requested to provide a reference to that chapter’s approval documentation, and to initiate our tracking and logging of hours. ECRC can not approve volunteer projects in another chapter’s jurisdiction, nor vice versa.
- Most sessions offered by Nature Centers, Universities, other State agencies such as Texas Forestry Service or Waco Wetlands will likely be approved, but not automatically. Examples of recent approvals include projects with Audubon and Cornell University. Also in this category would be other Citizen Science projects such as iNaturalist (see web site) and CoCoRaHS (see web site).
Now, if you can’t find enough hours in the above projects and committees, well, I guess you are just not trying very hard! (smile) Don