Archive for the ‘AmeriCorps’ Category

Project Conserve’s First Peer Training

Hello again, everyone! Laura Bochner here to blog about Project Conserve’s first peer training of the season, held in Boone, NC on Thursday, March 22nd! The focus of the peer training was energy, and the topics covered included small-scale renewable energy, mountaintop removal coal mining, and home weatherization audits.


Jamie Trowbridge from Appalachian State's Renewable Energy Initiative (far right, in black) talks to the group about one of the campus's solar arrays.

The training kicked off with a guided tour of the renewable energy projects at Appalachian State University. A graduate student involved with the Renewable Energy Initiative (REI) at App State, Jamie Trowbridge, showed our group the school’s wind turbine and solar panels, talked about how REI works, and discussed wind and solar technology with us.

Next, Brian Sewell, a Project Conserve member at Appalachian Voices in Boone, gave our group a presentation on mountaintop removal mining (MTR) that covered the environmental and human health impacts of MTR.


Natalie shows the group one of the pieces of equipment she uses during energy audits.

Afterwards, we walked to Brian’s house, where Project Conserve member Natalie Rosman, who blogged in February about her work as an Energy Assistant with WAMY Community Action in Boone (check out her post here), did a mock energy audit. Natalie showed us the equipment she uses to gauge a home’s energy efficiency and set up a blower door test to assess the airtightness of Brian’s house. We were very interested to see how Brian’s house would fare in the test—turns out, his house is appropriately air tight for its size!

Peer training attendees reported that the day was informative and fun. It also allowed Project Conserve members who don’t often see each other to catch up.

The goal of the peer trainings is to allow AmeriCorps members to share knowledge they’re acquired at their host sites with their Project Conserve teammates. Four more peer trainings are scheduled, one for each of the months of April, May, June, and July.


Educating Polk County Youth in the Ways of the Natural World


Member: Kristy Burja

Service Position: Education Assistant

Host Site: Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE)

First things first, let me clarify a common misconception of FENCE.  There are two parts to FENCE: the equestrian side and the nature center side.  They work very independently and do not overlap.  Contrary to what you might think, FENCE does not own or permanently house any horses.  FENCE acts as an equestrian facility, hosting a variety of equestrian events throughout the year.  I, of course, do not work on the equestrian side of FENCE; I work on the nature center side.  


Fossil Program at Polk Central Elementary

My job is fairly simple.  I work with kids, Pre-K through 5th grade, doing nature and science based education.   We have an in-school program called “Project FENCE”, where we bring science and nature curriculum (based on the North Carolina science standards) into classrooms across Polk County and the surrounding area.



A 4th grader investigating a fossil

Some of our programs include:  “I Spy the Food Web”, “Insects and Other Creepy Crawlies”, “Planet Earth and Beyond”, “Rocks and Minerals”, “Something Fishy”, “Roots, Shoots, and Leaves”, etc.  Part of my job this year has been to revise all of our education programs and bring them up to date with the changing science standards.  



A 4th grade class is making their own fossils

The second component to ‘”Project FENCE” is our in-nature program.  We bring kids out on field trips to FENCE to experience and study nature.  We have about 380 acres of land for the kids to explore.  We have 9 hiking trails that span a total of 5 miles.  We also have several small streams, a spring, and a large pond home to various creatures big and small.



Another part of my job is to take care of all the animals we house at FENCE.  We have 2 bearded dragons, 3 corn snakes, 1 East African king snake, 3 Madagascar hissing cockroaches, 3 green anoles, about 500 red worms, and a continuous supply of crickets and mealworms for our lizards.  This is definitely one of the favorite parts of my job.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Merlin - The Bearded Dragon

Green Anole

Christina and Carla - The Lady Corn Snakes

Madagasar Hissing Cockroach

Educating and Empowering the Next Generation of Watershed Stewards

Member: Nikki Bauman

Service Position: Education Coordinator

Host Site: RiverLink

RiverLink is a regional non-profit spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries as a place to live, work and play.

Since 1987 RiverLink has engaged in simultaneous efforts to address water quality concerns throughout the French Broad River basin, expand public opportunities for access and recreation, and spearhead the economic revitalization of Asheville’s dilapidated riverfront district.

3rd graders use their 5 senses to experience Bent Creek.

My role at RiverLink is to provide free, hands-on, experiential environmental education to all public, private, and home schooled students in the French Broad Watershed, including Henderson, Buncombe,

Madison, Haywood, Mitchell, Yancey, and Avery counties (that’s a LOT of kids to keep track of!).  The education component at RiverLink is vital to the success of its mission, as we must teach our younger generations to value and protect one of our most precious resources in Western North Carolina: the river!  Continue reading

A Weatherized Home Is A Happy Home

Member: Natalie Rossman

Service Position: Energy Assistant            

Host Site: WAMY Community Action

We have never been more comfortable in our home, thank you so much for everything you have done.  We noticed a difference immediately and will be forever grateful to WAMY for your generosity, understanding, and incredible work ethic!”—Fay Cole at the final audit inspection after weatherization work was completed, 12/23/11.

Weather-stripping for the attic access--ensures a proper seal of the attic hatch to keep air movement between the attic and the living space as minimal as possible

Fay Cole, a resident of Watauga County, recently got her home weatherized thanks to WAMY’s low-income weatherization program serving Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties in western North Carolina.  Her sheer joy and gratefulness for the comfort she now feels in her home is one of the many reasons why the work we have done and continue to do is important not only on an environmental and financial level, but on a basic comfort level.  Her son’s bedroom which has 3 exterior walls and was constantly cold and drafty, is now warm and cozy, allowing her son to focus on other more important things in his life besides the cold he once felt.  After our contractors air sealed both the attic and crawl space, insulated the attic and floor system, sealed and insulated the duct system, and performed general heat waste measures such as weather-stripping doors and replacing a window and door that needed repair, it is no wonder that Fay’s home now feels more like home.

Blown cellulose in the attic--this insulation creates a thermal barrier above the living space

The clients served by WAMY’s weatherization program all come from very diverse backgrounds, some experiencing extraordinary financial, physical, and/or emotional hardships either throughout their life or in a recent catastrophe of some sort.  The free services provided by WAMY are an investment in both their home’s durability/longevity and the health and safety of the home’s occupants (for example, by ensuring the home’s HVAC system(s) are running as efficiently as possible, and by installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors).  Our work also helps strengthen the local economy by hiring local contractors and trained professionals to fulfill the weatherization work itself.

The financial burden created by high energy costs coupled with an energy-inefficient home causes enormous amounts of stress, particularly for low-income households.  By weatherizing homes, we are lessening this financial burden by freeing up the client’s income that would otherwise be spent on high energy bills that can now be spent on other essential investments such as education, healthcare, and food.  Clients like Fay begin to truly understand the many advantages of the weatherization process: its environmental benefits, its financial savings, its structural investment in the home, and its ability to fulfill the basic need of comfort for occupants.

New sealed attic hatch--keeps communication between attic air and conditioned air minimal

Clients like Fay are not unusual—most if not all are forever grateful for the weatherization services they have received, as they know they could not afford these investments on their own.  Without WAMY’s intervention, their homes would remain drafty, unsafe, and uncomfortable, especially during these harsh winter months in western North Carolina (although this has been quite the mild winter!).

It has been an incredibly rewarding experience working with WAMY in these last couple of months, and I look forward to coming across more and more success stories and lives changed throughout the remainder of my AmeriCorps term here at WAMY Community Action.

Stewarding WNC’s Various Landscapes

Member: Laura Bochner

Service Position: Stewardship Associate

Host Site: Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Hendersonville, NC

I hail from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Valley is in the Great Appalachian Valley, a continuous valley that stretches from Quebec to Alabama and includes the storied Shenandoah Valley. My experiences with Appalachian physiography prior to the start of Project Conserve were largely valley-focused; what a treat to live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and work for their protection!

My host site, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), has helped protect over 22,000 acres of land in Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe, Rutherford, Jackson, Haywood, and Polk Counties and holds conservation easements (voluntary agreements with landowners that restrict certain land uses and types of development in order to safeguard natural resources) on 85+ properties. CMLC must visit these easements at least once per year, and that’s where I come in! During CMLC’s fall monitoring season (October-December), I spent a lot of time on conservation easement monitoring. Continue reading

The Mountains are Calling

Member: Hannah

Service Position: Outreach Associate

Host Site: Friends of the Smokies
I wasn’t born in these mountains–but I got here just as soon as I could.

I’m a North Carolina native, and I’ve been in Asheville for about four years, attending UNC Asheville. I wasn’t ready to leave the mountains after graduating this May, and happily I was able to join Project Conserve at Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, working to protect and provide for the Smokies. Continue reading

Meet Our Members!

Over the next 32 weeks each Project Conserve AmeriCorps member will take a moment to introduce themselves and describe their service in Western North Carolina.

Stay Tuned!