Spring 2015

Cleanup & Community

Club helps habitat and builds relationships

Members of the HSU Natural Resources Club work alongside City of Arcata Maintenance Crew employees to remove invasive plant species at the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary.

AFTER FIVE DAYS of classes, doing homework, and attending to student life in general, Daniel Reyes looks forward to spending Saturday with his friends. But even when he’s recreating, the HSU Environmental Management & Protection major is accomplishing something that enhances his education and benefits the community.

As president of Humboldt State’s Natural Resources Club, Reyes is one of roughly 20 students that have their weekends fully booked. They meet every Saturday on the steps of the Natural Resources building, then depart for a location where they’ll spend the next few hours removing invasive plant species, gathering garbage, and performing other activities geared toward restoring natural environments.

“The club has been consistent for so many years, that in a way, the organizations almost expect us,” said Michelle Santillan, the club’s events coordinator and an Environmental Science major with an emphasis in ecological restoration. “We just look through their calendar and add the events to ours. They know we’re going to be there, rain or shine, and they’re always appreciative.”

Other organizations tapping into the volunteer workforce include the Trinidad Coastal Land Fund, the Humboldt Fish Council, Friends of the Marsh, and the Watershed Stewards. Most prominent, however, is the City of Arcata and Natural Resources Maintenance Crew Leader Dennis Houghton (’85, Geography, ’92, Industrial Technology), who is connected to many of the resources groups.

“There are multiple benefits of the club’s involvement in our volunteer work days, not only for the students but also the community,” Houghton said. “They’re doing important restoration work, and working alongside senior citizens and high school students. That interaction represents a mentoring aspect.”

Recently, 17 HSU students joined the Friends of the Dunes in Manila in an effort to thin non-native plants. Like most Natural Resources Club activities, the focus is on returning habitat to its original state.

Another effort helps keep a heavily-trafficked area tidy. The club has taken responsibility for cleaning the stretch of Highway 101 that runs along campus, from Sunset Avenue to 14th Street.

“Community involvement is important, and volunteering is a great way to be engaged,” Reyes said. “Here in Humboldt, there are more opportunities for students to take more advantage of than there are in many of the places we come from.”

That involvement hasn’t diminished the social aspect of the college experience. In fact, it’s enhanced relationships with other students representing a variety of majors.

“Our volunteers aren’t all science majors,” Santillan said. “Many students come out because it’s fun. You start seeing each other regularly and form friendships.”

The activities also fill a common need encountered by new students.

“Many of us have transferred here from outside of the area, and when you arrive in Humboldt, students are asking, ‘what is there to do?’” Santillan said. “This club and our activities fill that need. You’re exposed to so many beautiful places, even inside of town. For instance, on any given weekend you might be working on a creek you probably wouldn’t have noticed.”

Reyes sees the experience as one component that helps build the bridge from college education to career. When he graduates in May, 2015, he plans to return home to Visalia, Calif., with a greater understanding of environmental impacts and ecological restoration.

“Volunteer fieldwork has supplemented what I’ve learned in the classroom,” Reyes said. “Ideally, I’d like to work in a city planning department, encouraging more community involvement. Everybody can contribute to making their home a better place to live.”