Volunteer Field Observer trainings set

Training classes set for Gulf oil spill volunteers
By Casandra Andrews
May 26, 2010, 5:00AM

View full size(Press-Register/John David Mercer)The coast of Dauphin Island on May 4, 2010. Classes have been set to train volunteers to assess the impact of oil along the Alabama coast.Those who want to take part in a newly created Volunteer Field Observer Program to assess Alabama's shoreline before and after any impact from the Gulf oil spill can sign up for classes that begin Thursday in Mobile.

Trained volunteers will help identify protective measures and areas that need cleaning, volunteer organizers said.

A damaged well began leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico following the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that claimed 11 lives.

"Besides cleanups, this is the first real volunteer opportunity we'll have," said Bethany Kraft, executive director of the Coastal Alabama Foundation. "I'm really excited about it."

The following training dates have been set:

•Thursday -- 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
•June 1 -- 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
•June 2 -- 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All training sessions will be held at the Coalition of Active Stakeholders Team headquarters, 5 N. Jackson St. in downtown Mobile.

Those interested in attending should e-mail saveourgulf@mobilebaykeeper.org with the training date you can attend.

"The best person for this is based locally and has an existing knowledge of the shoreline," Kraft said, "to patrol their own section of heaven."

The training sessions will provide people with details on how to collect data, identify each team's assessment areas and provide volunteers with necessary supplies.

Information provided as a Volunteer Field Observer is not only valuable to the Deepwater Horizon spill response, organizers said, but to people in other regions who, when faced with a similar event, may be able to learn from the local program's successes and failures.

Those who take part in this program will need to commit to assessing an area of shoreline multiple times in the coming weeks, Kraft said.

Field observations will mainly be conducted by canoe and kayak. Volunteers need to supply their own boats, organizers said.

Assessment teams will consist of at least two people, Kraft said, noting that a limited number of global positioning satellite units and digital cameras will be provided. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own equipment.

Volunteers will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, Kraft said, adding that the group anticipates adding more training sessions in the future.

"It's the perfect opportunity for people who live on the water to get involved," Kraft said.

The Alabama Coastal Foundation and Mobile Baykeeper partnered with the Coalition of Active Stakeholders Team to develop the volunteer program.

See continuing coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 on al.com and GulfLive.com.

To keep track of the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, visit www.skytruth.org or follow its Twitter feed.

To see updated projection maps related to the oil spill in the Gulf, visit the Deepwater Horizon Response Web site established by government officials.

How to help: Volunteers eager to help cope with the spill and lessen its impact on the Gulf Coast environment and economy.

HOW YOU CAN HELP will appear daily in the Press-Register until there is no longer a need for volunteers in response to the oil spill disaster. If you have suggestions for a story, or if you belong to an organization in need of such help, please call Press-Register Editor Mike Marshall at 251-219-5674 or email him at mmarshall@press-register.com.

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