The MMP Ambassador Program
The ultimate success of a widespread, volunteer-driven program such as the Marsh Monitoring Program (MMP) relies on efforts to continually improve program delivery and volunteer servicing. For example, volunteers have expressed a desire for more in-person training and guidance to help them conduct their MMP surveys. This need, and to help develop the MMP in a region where substantial opportunity occurs, the MMP launched a pilot project in 2005 with generous funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Through a collaborative partnership with the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences (SLRIES), Bird Studies Canada (BSC) is working to develop the MMP Ambassador Initiative (MMPAI). The MMPAI aims to expand the presence of the MMP throughout the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River watersheds of Eastern Ontario by engaging and empowering dedicated and experienced MMP ?ambassadors?. These ambassadors function as local volunteer coordinators to help maintain and develop MMP monitoring capacity throughout this region. Ambassadors actively promote the MMP and help recruit and service current and new volunteers within their local area. This is done through periodic information and training workshops, promotion of the MMP at naturalist club meetings and conservation events, regular contact with volunteers to answer questions and provide on-the-ground support, and taking an active role to work with MMP staff to help track route monitoring and related activities. Through these efforts, MMP ambassadors provide volunteer assistance at a grassroots level and give volunteers a greater sense of understanding and satisfaction in their monitoring contributions.
Throughout this two-year pilot project, BSC and the SLRIES are collaboratively working to develop an optimal strategy for effectively recruiting and retaining MMP ambassadors, how best to equip and empower ambassadors to most effectively recruit and retain local MMP volunteers, and how to guide ambassadors to most effectively deliver the MMP in their area. A small group of ambassadors established in 2005 will act as a base from which to expand the ambassador network throughout Eastern Ontario in 2006/2007. Ultimately, a greater MMP presence in Eastern Ontario will increase our knowledge of marsh bird and amphibian population status in this region, while promoting the importance of wetland monitoring and conservation.