Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve seeks docent volunteers

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve seeks docent volunteers

For those who would enjoy sharing information about The Nature Conservancy’s tallgrass prairie ecosystem to visitors from all over the world at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, north of Pawhuska, morning classes for new docent volunteers will be held on Feb. 7 and 14.

Enrollment may also occur at either of two informational meetings about the training. The meetings will be held from 2-4 p.m. Jan. 11 at Hardesty Public Library in Tulsa (8316 E. 93rd Street) and at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at Bartlesville Public Library (600 S. Johnstone).

The volunteer program promotes The Nature Conservancy’s mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends, through tallgrass prairie ecosystem restoration at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. A primary function of the volunteers is to interact with preserve visitors, who come from all 50 states and more than 100 other countries.

The conservancy’s employees focus on activities directly related to the scientific mission; the public relations with visitors falls mainly on the volunteers’ shoulders. Volunteers explain the conservancy and preserve missions, provide information about the preserve history, status, bison herd, tall grasses, answer visitor questions, and staff the visitors’ center gift shop. In order to conduct these activities effectively, volunteers receive training in preserve policies, history and visitors’ center procedures. Trained volunteers are called docents.

The training will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7 and 14 at the Owasso Community Center, located 301 S. Cedar in Owasso. Additional on-site training will occur on Feb. 21 or 28 with an opportunity to meet additional docents and staff. A short internship follows.

Docents also have limited opportunities to participate in special, docents only, activities such as field classes on wildflower and plant identification, butterfly and bird identification, geology, and at least one annual guided hike into non-public areas of the Preserve. These experiences give docents the opportunity to provide more in-depth information about the preserve’s grasses, flowers, wildlife, bison, terrain, etc.

Although prairie expanses are common to local residents, the vastness is unusual to people from foreign countries and from many of the coastal states, according to officials. Visitors are excited when they experience the preserve, the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on earth. Docent duties are shared with multiple docents, who volunteer daily from early March through mid-December. Typically docents volunteer about once a month or as frequently as his or her schedule permits. However, a minimum of three days a year are required.

More docent information may be found on the Tallgrass Prairie Volunteer website http://www.tgp-docents.com/docent.

For specific information about this once-a-year docent training or to enroll, or for information about non-docent volunteer activities, contact Kay Krebbs, TGP operations administrator, 918-855-7189 (email kkrebbs@tnc.org), no later than Jan. 25. Those interested in learning about non-docent volunteer activities may contact the preserve anytime of the year.