Volunteer Dean Hanson leads SPAWN staff on a bird survey in Olema, California.

Volunteers are an integral part of the work we do here at Turtle Island Restoration Network. In California, Dean Hanson is a volunteer of our California-based program, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network, or SPAWN, that protects endangered Coho salmon and the forests and watersheds they need to survive in West Marin County, California.

Dean recently helped lead a number of bird survey walks, sharing his wealth of knowledge with the SPAWN staff and volunteers. He has also built several rat exclosure cages for our native plant nursery, allowing us to protect our newly sprouted seedlings!

Please tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m Dean Hanson, from Woodacre where I’ve lived with my wife, Nancy, for the last 15 years.  I’ve been in Marin since 1982 after growing up in Owatonna, Minnesota and going to college in Minneapolis (U of MN).  Having retired a bit over a year ago I’ve been able to indulge myself with several volunteer commitments.  Three are like my former work, bookkeeping and tax preparation (treasurer for two of the organizations), and three are more of the “get your hands dirty” type.  I’m actually much more happy with getting my hands dirty.  Our local community has a garden club that works on several sights in Woodacre and I volunteer with Zen of Weeding in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

How long have you been volunteering with SPAWN and how did you find us?

Helping out with SPAWN has been going on since the old nursery was in Forest Knolls, though I did very little then.  I was asked to make some screening trays for sifting dirt into trays.  I loved designing them and making them.  Nancy says that they are still around and in use.  Nancy got me involved back then when it pretty much was Mel Wright and Dr. Bill and Nancy running the nursery as volunteers.

Plant cages built by Dean.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

Now I am building specially fabricated “Rat Ex-closure Cages” to protect the tiny seedlings and seeds from rodents.  I love coming up with functional designs and re-purposing old wood and other findings to make sturdy but inexpensive cages.  They have to fit on tables in the Quonset type growing structures.  I want them to work not just to exclude the rodents but so that the staff working with them have easy and safe access to the trays of seedlings.  So it involves using my brain and tools and keeps me on my feet.  I’ve sat at desks in offices too much in life so in retirement I want a better balance.  The volunteer jobs I do afford that range of work.  It is certainly less stressful and genuinely satisfying.

What have you learned through volunteering?

Volunteering is a way for me to be part of a team/organization that allows me to be in service to goals that match up well with my own values.  We get things done and I am a part of accomplishing all of that.  It feels good while I’m doing the work and after it is done.  What better life can one ask for?

What would you say to someone who’s considering volunteering with us?

My work with SPAWN has given me the opportunity to use my skills in work I find enjoyable and for an organization that is moving towards its goals, goals I share.  I get to work outdoors and they tried hard to find work that I enjoy.  So everyone comes out better and gradually we improve the habitat in this county that I love.

Dean, left, helps plant native plants.

Our volunteers are an essential part of the organization and we wouldn’t be able to complete the work we do without them! If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities.