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International Conference in Washington, DC

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The conference on volunteer movement in the USA was convened at the end of February – beginning of March in Washington.


The conference took place in the largest Washington hotel Marriott. There are many well-equipped halls for presentations, stand presentations as well as a huge banquet hall. The hotel can host 2-3 or more large conferences simultaneously.

There participated 2-10 representatives from 49 states, in total – 500 participants. 1903 is deemed as the beginning of the volunteer movement in the USА. In 1960 the first organized group of volunteers was set up, in 1990s the movement spread throughout the country. In 2002 the first conference at the federal level was held, the same year volunteers addressed the Congress and declared themselves. Lynn Greewalt, director of NGO transformed the whole range of activities in natural reserves. His slogan is “Experts should hold managerial posts”. It was a breakthrough.

One could choose 5-6 sections for work of 30 sections (on climate change, invasive plants, organization of firefighting, grant application and winning issues, work of managerial staff and many others). I was interested in issues of development and organization of volunteer activity (setting boundaries), setting up Council, grant winning process (advantages and disadvantages); steps to make up and submit a scientific application, definition of basic fields of organization activity, friend-to-friend sessions, organizing stands about friends.

Keynote speakers and moderators engaged participants in the work of sections. Abundance of methodological guidance, various flyers and questionnaires helped to understand the discussed problem in detail. Later we had an opportunity to visit two reserves , US National Arboretum (Washington D.C.) and the Botanical garden where we could see practical aspects of volunteer activity.

Black Water Natural Reserve

This natural reserve is attractive for a large amount of Canadian Geese (35000). The reserve is annually visited by 100000 people. March-May and November are the top visiting months since these are months of the largest arrival of birds (bald eagle, vulture, common heron, white pelican, cardinal-bird etc.). Educational programme is supported by governmental and school grants as well as assistance of the reserve friends. 100 volunteers work in the natural reserve (2 payroll staff members work with volunteers).

Patuxent Natural Reserve

The reserve area comprises 5000 hectares, in includes a 20-hectare lake and two rivers. Patuxent is the only natural reserve where scientific research is conducted (270 species of birds, 40 species of reptiles and amphibia). There is clear-cut work with volunteers. Annually 200-300 volunteers work out 25000-35000 hours meanwhile the staff does only 2000 hours!!! Volunteers are offered to choose from 40 types of work.

US National Arboretum

US National Arboretum was organized in 1927. Entrance is free. 120 volunteers work in the Arboretum: 11 in Herbarium (3 of them for 20 years)! Volunteers work in the library, department for plant pasportization, many of them like to weed and cut shrubs etc. The staff cooperates with volunteers. Many young curators of collections ask for advice of veteran volunteers. Volunteers had to seek recognition of the government and the staff, to prove that they can really help them.

Botanical garden (greenhous)

In 1850 the Botanical garden was opened to show plants collected in 1838-1842 round-the-world expedition to visitors. Today greenhouses are equipped with computers, there are 3 types of humidification: theatrical fog, top-down sprinkling and watering from the hose at 7 a.m. There are many information stands for visitors and volunteer-guides with the badge “Ask me”. It is the annual open-doors-day for everyone including volunteers.

Work in Herbaria of Washington D.C.

There are 2 herbaria in Washington D.C.: Smith’s- 2500000 herbarium folia and the Main Herbarium of the US Agency for Agriculture at the National Arboretum - 700000 folia. Flora of North America, New York Oxford, 2002 cited 34 species of the genus Iris (1 species - I. setosa grows in Russia, 6 species have been introduced in the USA), thus, I was especially interested in herbaria of 27 species. I look through more than 1000 folia and enlisted about 300 in the database for detailed consideration.