Jul 15, 2022

Community Spotlight: The Watershed Stewards Program

You may have seen these folks taking flow measurements in SLO Creek or monitoring eelgrass in Morro Bay. Corpsmembers of the Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) work throughout California to improve watershed health and preserve fish habitat. WSP is a special program of the California Conservation Corps, in partnership with AmeriCorps. The Estuary Program had the chance to chat with WSP recruiter and Program Coordinator Jason Lopiccolo to learn more about the program and its impact on communities throughout California.  

WSP Corpsmembers walk down a creek looking for spawning fish.
Watershed Stewards Program Corpsmembers at the Marin Water Fisheries Program performing surveys of spawning areas. This is only one of the many kinds of surveys Corpsmembers do. Photograph courtesy of Douglas Zimmerman.

The Mission of WSP

WSP Team Leader in the field working on a smolt trap in Point Reyes.
Team Leader Haley, juvenile fish trapping at the Point Reyes National Seashore Placement Site. Photograph courtesy of Jamal Jaffer.

WSP is a professional development program for young scientists beginning their natural resource and environmental careers. Corpsmembers are between the ages of 18 and 32 and conduct service for 10.5 months, with monthly stipends. Since it was established in 1994, the Watershed Stewards Program has helped over 1,300 Corpsmembers get their start in watershed and fisheries science careers. 

Corpsmember releasing fish into a stream in the Russian River watershed.
Corpsmember Sam at the Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program, performing a fish release. Photograph courtesy of Shannon B.

WSP offers Corpsmembers the opportunity to serve at various environmental organizations throughout California. Corpsmembers are matched up with a Placement Site where they have direct mentorship from scientists as they gain experience in watershed data collection and analysis, fisheries surveys, watershed restoration, and other scientific skills. The geographic range of Corpsmember Placement Sites spans as far north as Klamath and Yreka, and as far south as Topanga in the Santa Monica Mountains and Santa Barbara. 

WSP Corpsmember using a rock anchor tool next to a tree trunk in a creek.
Corpsmember Sam at the Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program, performing a fish release. Photograph courtesy of Shannon B.
WSP Corpsmember posing with the CCC Director.
Corpsmember Akosa, serving with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) Director Bruce Saito. Photograph courtesy of Bruce Saito.

Sharing the science through community engagement

A big part of the WSP mission is to directly reach community members. All Corpsmembers teach watershed education curriculum in local schools, and each member is responsible for planning and organizing a restoration event for volunteers. Over the past 28 years, WSP has developed more than 1,900 volunteer events, engaged over 28,000 community volunteers, and conducted outreach to over 320,000 community members in California.  

WSP Corpsmembers with tools planting and weeding.
Corpsmembers at a volunteer restoration event to create a drought-resistant native plant garden at the CCC Los Padres base in San Luis Obispo. Photograph courtesy of Zia Schatz.
WSP Corpsmember posing with a fish during a dissection.
Corpsmember Ben performs a fish dissection as part of the watershed education curriculum at a local school. Photograph courtesy of Tara Blake.

WSP in San Luis Obispo County

WSP came to the San Luis Obispo region in 2011 and has partnered with many agencies here over the last 11 years! The Estuary Program co-hosts the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative Placement Site, along with Creek Lands Conservation, the California Conservation Corps, the City of San Luis Obispo, and historically with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  

Corpsmembers measuring stream flow in a SLO County creek.
San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative Corpsmembers performing creek surveys in San Luis Obispo County. Photograph courtesy of Hannah Brown.

WSP Corpsmembers work in the Morro Bay watershed to collect valuable data about steelhead populations, conduct creek restoration, and interface with the community at outreach events. 

Corpsmember posing in a hard hat while planting drought-resistant plants in SLO County.
Team Leader Abigail planting during a volunteer restoration event at the CCC Los Padres base. Photograph courtesy of Sam Funakoshi.

Opportunities in the Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo area

There are WSP opportunities in the SLO area. The SLO Steelhead initiative is seeking Corpsmembers to work on projects with several local organizations, including the Estuary Program, to help restore Steelhead populations. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking Corpsmembers to assist with fisheries work throughout the County. The program is also seeking Team Leaders, who provide support to other Corpsmembers and gain nonprofit management experience. 

Two Corpsmembers using a ruler and tools to conduct a vegetation survey.
Team Leader Shelby and Corpsmember Jay at the Central Coast Wetlands Group in Moss Landing conducting vegetation surveys. Photograph courtesy of Haley Deese.

Join the Watershed Stewards Program!

Becoming a Corpsmember in WSP is an excellent opportunity to jump-start your career in the natural resources field. If you or someone you know could be a good fit, visit the Watershed Stewards Program website, including information about applying to the program. 

WSP expects to have forty Corpsmembers and four Team Leader positions throughout California for the next term that begins in October. Applications are due on August 31. For any additional questions, contact wsp.recruiter@ccc.ca.gov. 


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