AmeriCorps Story of Service

By Brett Larson

I’m back for another round! Having decided to stay another term here as an Environmental Educator with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, I excitedly continue to connect people and the natural world. On my second time through I have the drive to reach new heights of achievement, confident in my abilities. The first quarter of my second term has brought the return of familiar programs like Salmon in the Classroom, but also brought new colleagues, amazing opportunities, and plenty of adventure as well!

Starting in September this year, as opposed to October, gave me the chance to experience annual activities I missed the last time around preeminently our yearly adult summer chum trap! A federally listed population, the Hood Canal Summer Chum are isolated in time, heading upstream a full one to two months earlier than other salmon runs in the Puget Sound. Every year the HCSEG assembles a trap on the Union River that between mid-August and mid-October, stops the chum as they swim up. We then rely on volunteers to record the fish’s sex and species, before releasing them to continue their journey. On several shifts, I worked the trap myself, occasionally with the help of friends and family! And in addition to counting fish, I would live up to my title of Environmental Educator, answering questions and inspiring wonder about our outstanding Oncorhynchus, at times assisted by holding one alive in my hands!

Beyond the trap, we also attended and hosted other events of note. Every year in early October Mason County gathers to hold the lively seafood festival Oysterfest! A fantastic and charitable affair, nonprofits and community groups raise money for their causes, and show off the work they do. Given a larger tent than we at first realized, we found purpose for the space, providing coloring and activity tables for families to step out of the crowd, and giving people brochures telling people about our organization and other conservation information. In late November, after doing a salmon activity day with the 3rd graders and their middle school buddies, Hood Canal School invited us on a field trip to Kennedy Creek, a local salmon viewing spot. As the students saw chum run with their own eyes, we had plenty of opportunities to guide their exploration, an opportunity missed last year due to inclement weather. Finally, I should mention that with a new push to host more on-site workshops, we created our Healthy Habits and Habitats lesson in early December where we taught a modest-sized group about actions that can make both themselves and the world healthier!

Besides new events, I also received some new responsibilities, at the end of my last term the DEI committee promoted me to its head, charging me to lead the monthly meeting and coordinate the group. Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to the environmental mission of our organization and to the environmental justice owed to the marginalized in our country. As the committee works to build better systems for the HCSEG, I am proud to play my part and that my colleagues also feel the call to action. Together we identify ways to implement fair principles, discover new trainings, and improve internal practices. This spirit is also being implemented into our educational materials, which are being updated to better acknowledge the Washington tribes role as first and continuing stewards of our state’s natural areas.

All in all, I stand by my decision to stick around the ol’ Salmon Center. It is undoubtedly a remarkable place. I still love working and giving presentations to the kids, and the chances to work outside, get crafty and further my understanding. Change is a natural part of life and while the location’s the same, new and beautiful moments are just a stepping stone away!