Involving volunteers in environmental projects is a great way to tackle environmental issues as well as offering people the chance to experience the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature.
Volunteers are helping to eradicate one of the country’s worst weeds from the Alpine National Park in Victoria, Australia.
Hawkweed is an extremely invasive member of the daisy family that has already caused major environmental damage in North America, Japan and New Zealand.
An eradication programme to remove three species discovered in the national park involves State Government organisations, a ski resort, universities, research organisations and volunteers.
Volunteers learn to identify Hawkweed during a newly-discovered infestation. Photo by Rod McQueen
Over five weeks last summer, 59 volunteers made a significant contribution, discovering 15 Hawkweed infestations across 73 hectares of vast and rugged alpine landscape.
The search involved approximately a thousand hours of surveillance over rough terrain and often in challenging weather conditions,” said Keith Primrose, Operations Manager for the Hawkweed Eradication Programme with Parks Victoria.
We had an amazing season with a fabulous bunch of volunteers and we can’t thank them enough for their time and hard work. Without the dedication of these volunteers this programme has significantly less chance of success,” said Keith.
Samantha Strong, one of the volunteers last summer, said the experience was a fantastic one and definitely something she’d do again.
"It was not only really satisfying to know I was making a difference on an important environmental issue, but the surroundings were stunning – it was good for the mind, body and soul being out there in the Alps,” said Samantha.
Falls Creek Resort Management supplied accommodation for the volunteers free of charge. This meant they stayed on the mountain for the surveillance work and enjoyed their free time in the beautiful alpine landscape, making their volunteer experience a mix of work and leisure.
Planning is already underway for next year’s season and recruitment starts later this year.
The experience of projects such as this one will be shared during the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, taking place in Sydney in November.