The requirements to become a registered volunteer with the Northwest Montana Lakes Network are as follows.
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Have an interest in water quality issues
- Be interested in working with fisheries
- Be willing to help protect and enhance water quality throughout northwestern Montana
- Be available during the spring/summer/early fall seasons to help with data collection at monitored sites
- Have transportation to the specified lake monitoring sites
- Be available for a brief spring training session (see Training Session Dates for information on times and locations).
- Safety is a primary concern for our volunteers. Please don’t go on the lake if your safety would be put at risk.
- Montana law requires that a wearable Personal Flotation Device (PFD) type I,II, or III must be available for each person on vessels less than sixteen feet long; including canoes and kayaks of any length.
- Vessels sixteen feet and longer must also have one Type I, II or III PFD for each person on board. In addition, one Type IV throwable PFD must be on board and be immediately accessible for use.
- If possible, take someone with you and always let someone know where you will be, and when you will return.
- Bring water, sunscreen, food, raingear and extra clothing as weather can change quickly in Montana.
- Bring a cell phone if possible to call out if an emergency does arise.
Volunteers are solicited to become volunteer lake monitors via advertisements in newspapers and through networking with the Lincoln County Conservation District, MFWP and other sources.
All volunteers will receive a copy of the Northwestern Montana Lakes Network Manual and attend a training session. The manual protocols require volunteers to record lake data measurements pertaining to physical conditions and observations. Data should be collected on a biweekly basis at a mid-lake site. Volunteers will be asked to send via mail or submit online their data collection forms where they will be recorded into a volunteer database that will be available to management agencies in the Flathead basin. In addition, a biennial report will be produced to describe the trends found in the sampled lakes.
Volunteer training is held in late spring/ early summer of each year in Whitefish, Olney and Eureka. Training will follow the US EPA’s Methods Manual 2007 procedures for all the individual parameters to be sampled. The training will take approximately 3 hours. At the training session, trainers and volunteers will review sampling protocols, safety issues, and have a general discussion of lake issues, including the identification of aquatic invasive species. All volunteers will be trained to collect data in a consistent format in order to compare and contrast lake systems.
Each volunteer will receive a laminated Standard Data Collection Methods instruction sheet at the training session to serve as a field guide. Each year, a training refresher will take place to reacquaint existing volunteers with collection procedures and to train new volunteers.