No time to volunteer? Try these 10 ideas for short term low commitment volunteering.

By Rebecca Niblett

People are more and more busy these days and it can be hard to find time to volunteer.  Even harder is finding the time and energy to search out that perfect volunteer opportunity and location.  And then, there is the fear – what if I make a commitment to volunteer for an organization and then I get busy or something comes up and I can’t make it?

I struggle with these questions a lot, both personally as someone who wants to volunteer, and as a volunteer coordinator trying to recruit volunteers to help out at Gamiing.

But, working with volunteers, I have found some answers to these issues.  I wanted to share these answers to help others in the same position as me.  So this is my list of short term (like 5 to 15 minutes), one time, or low commitment volunteering ideas:

  1. Write a letter, article, or review of the organization online, for a local paper, a newsletter, or for the organization to post on their website testimonials page.  Letters to the editor or your local paper praising a service the organization offers, or an event they held could be helpful.  Or, find the organization on some of the many review/listing sites online and write a positive review.  Write an article about your trip or experience with the organization for your school paper or company newsletter.
  2. Take some photos or film of important stuff the organization has or does (like for Gamiing you could photograph the property and wildlife you see on it, or events that we have).  Post these photos online, on the organization’s social media sites, send them a link to the photo/video, email them photos or digital video files, or mail or drop off hard copies in person.
  3. Create a mini fundraiser for the organization with your family and friends.  This could be anything from a penny drive (collect the pennies from coworkers’ change), to providing a pot of homemade coffee rather than store bought and asking coworkers to donate the money they would have spent on coffee, to a penalty jar  (swear jar) where every time a family member breaks a rule (swears, drives instead of walks somewhere, eats something off their diet, buys lunch instead of packing their own…) they must put 10 or 25 cents in a jar, to asking people to give donations rather than gifts for your birthday.  Be creative and have fun with it!
  4. Content curration for social media.  This role is one where a longer term commitment might be helpful, but where the time commitment can be as small (or large) as you want it to be.  This is also something you can do while you are doing other tasks online.  A content curator picks a topic or two that they are interested in, that meshes well with the organization they are volunteering with.  Whenever they come across interesting content online (in blogs, newspapers, articles, other sites) they either post the link directly on the organizations social media sites (tweet it, post on facebook etc.) or send the links to someone at the organization in charge of social media content for their use. (Gamiing is looking for some content currators so if this appeals to you email me at volunteermangment@gamiing.org)
  5. Even shorter and with less commitment – tweeting, posting, talking about, and passing on information about an organization can be a huge help.  See that an organization is having a fundraising event that you think looks fun? Tweet about it to your friends, or phone someone who might be interested.  Pass on links to an organization’s website to friends with similar interests.  Encourage your friends to like their facebook page.  Replace your profile pic with the organization’s logo.   The organization may never know that you have done it, but trust me, they will be happy that you did.
  6. What about in person stuff?  Well at Gamiing for example we always need help with the nursery and grounds.  Can’t commit to a long term regular schedule of volunteering? Why not talk to the Volunteer Coordinator or someone on staff about little tasks you could do whenever you have time.  At Gamiing that might be weeding plants at the nursery on your way to hike on our trails.  Or, picking up litter, or fallen sticks from the trail to keep it clear while you hike.  Or report a problem with the trails or grounds to staff (such as a tree fallen across a trail).
  7. Another idea to help out an organization is to print out a few (like 1 to 10) posters or flyers (contact someone at the organization to get a digital file) and post them at your school, gym, church, club, rec centre, library, work place, or other places you frequent.  Gamiing has several posters that we would love to see posted around the local communities.
  8. If the organization doesn’t have a good poster or flyer why not offer to design it for them?  Gamiing can always use help with posters and flyers for upcoming events and our regular programs.
  9. Make something the organization can use (it’s a good idea to talk to them first about what you want to make).  Many organizations need to send a lot of thank you cards to donor and other people, why not have your kids help to make a set of thank you cards they could use?  Or, some organizations give out gifts or meals to people in need – why not decorate some bags for those gifts?  Artistic? Why not draw some images to use in colouring contests, or for kids to colour at programs/camps?
  10. Use a microvolunteering website like Sparked.com to find one time/low commitment volunteer opportunities.  There are lots of opportunities with lots of different organization to do everything from review a webpage, to design a logo, to draft a letter and more.

Gamiing and a lot of similar small not for profit organizations are in need of your help. But, you don’t have to give them a huge time commitment to be helpful.  Volunteering can be easy, fun, and fast!

One note of caution: don’t be surprised if you get hooked on volunteering and find that you are spending more time than you planned!

If you are interested in helping Gamiing with any of these or in another volunteer role check out the website or email me at volunteermanagement@gamiing.org.

Happy Volunteering!

Rebecca Niblett, Volunteer Coordinator
Gamiing Nature Centre

March Break Fun!

By Rebecca Niblett

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
e. e. cummings

Gamiing follows a philosophy based on reconnecting people with the natural world.  We believe that our society is quickly losing our connection with other living things and the world around us.  This leads to problems like Nature Deficit Disorder (See Richard Louv – the author of “Last Child in the Woods” info on his website here: http://richardlouv.com/).

Thus, we decided that for March Break this year we would give families an opportunity to reconnect to the natural world at Gamiing.  We did this by providing a variety of fun, family directed activities for families and groups to do while hiking the trails at Gamiing.  Our hope was that by giving children and families activities that required paying attention to what was going on around them, without being too structured, they would be able to spend that time outdoors really connecting to what they saw around them.

The beautiful weather was (mostly) a bonus, as many groups came out to enjoy the warmth and sunshine.  It was not for the faint of heart though – slogging through the mud and puddles meant that a lot of families returned soaked and covered in mud from their adventures.  For most this just added to the fun.

One memorable family, with a dog and two young girls in tow returned from their sojourn in the woods laughing and soaked from head to toe.  The youngest girl, when sitting on the boardwalk outside the discovery shack lifted her leg, to allow the water to pour from her rubber boots. It was not until they were gone that I noticed the wood of the boardwalk was soaked where she had sat!

It may be a dry spring in the Kawarthas – but there is still lots of mud left at Gamiing for those brave folks willing to risk getting muddy in order to pursue adventure and connection with the natural world.

 

 

How do climate models work?

By Luisa Cristini, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Generally speaking, a climate model is a mathematical representation of the climate system based on physical, biological and chemical principles, included in equations. In addition, climate models require some more inputs derived from observations or other studies.

Many climate models have been developed to perform future climate projections, i.e., to simulate and understand climate changes in response to the emission of greenhouse gases. Models can also be powerful tools to improve our knowledge of the most important characteristics of the climate system and of the causes of climate variations. Climatologists cannot perform experiments on the real climate system to identify the role of a particular process or to test a hypothesis. Thus, climate models are used to perform experiments in a virtual world.

For a climate model describing nearly all the components of the system, only a relatively small amount of data is required. For instance, the solar irradiance (the amount of solar radiation arriving at a specific spot at a specific time), the Earth’s radius and period of rotation, the land topography and bathymetry (the underwater “topography”) of the ocean, some properties of rocks and soils, etc. Data are also important during the development phase of the model, as they provide essential information on the properties of the system that is being modeled. In addition, large numbers of observations are needed to test the validity of the models in order to gain confidence in the conclusions derived from their results.

The models used for future global climate projections are called General Circulation Models (GCMs) and try to account for all the important properties of the system at the highest affordable resolution. The term GCM was introduced because the first goal of these models is to simulate realistically the three dimensional structure of winds and oceanic currents. They are classically divided into Atmospheric General Circulation Models (AGCMs) and Ocean General Circulation Models (OGCMs). For climate studies using interactive atmospheric and oceanic components, the acronyms AOGCM (Atmosphere Ocean General Circulation Model) and the broader CGCM (Coupled General Circulation Model) are generally chosen.

General circulation models provide the most precise and complex description of the climate system. They compute the values of model variables at a given time on a horizontal grid (across the surface of earth). These values provide enough information to reconstruct, over the whole domain (the area studied), an approximation of the corresponding field. Currently, the horizontal resolution of GCMs is typically on the order of 100 to 200 km. Also, nowadays, GCMs take more and more components into account, and many new models include sophisticated models of the sea ice, the carbon cycle, ice sheet dynamics and atmospheric chemistry. Because of the large number of processes included and their relatively high resolution, GCM simulations require a large amount of computer time. For instance, an experiment covering one century typically takes several weeks to run on the fastest computers.

The interactions between the various components of the system (atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, land surface, marine biogeochemistry, ice sheets) play a crucial role in the dynamics of climate. Some of the interactions are quite straightforward to compute from the models state variables, while more sophisticated parameterizations (decisions about variables to include) are required for others.

After their development, climate models have to be tested to assess their quality and evaluate their performance, especially with regards to the scientific objectives of the studies that will be conducted.

A first step is to ensure that the numerical model solves the equations of the physical model adequately. This procedure, often referred to as verification, deals with the numerical resolution of the equations in the model, but does not check the agreement between the model and reality. It makes sure that no coding errors have been introduced into the program and that the numerical methods used to solve the model equations are sufficiently accurate.

A second test for the climate model is the validation process, i.e. determining whether the model accurately represents reality. To do this, model results are compared with observations (e.g., temperature, precipitation, etc.) obtained in the same conditions and interpolated on the same grid.

Additionally, the model must be able to simulate reasonably well the climate in recent decades for which we have good estimates. This means performing simulations including the evolution of both natural and anthropogenic forcings over that period. In these simulations, the long-term average of various variables (such as temperature) in all the model components is compared with observations on given time slices. Furthermore, the ability of the model to reproduce the observed climate variability on all time scales is also checked.

A second test period for climate models is the Holocene (the geological epoch which began around 12,000 years ago and continues to the present) and the last millennium, for which we have a reasonably good knowledge of climate variations. Climate models have to be able to describe well enough the climate variations that happened in that time and for which we have data (inferred from tree rings, ice cores, historical data and other “paleoclimatic records”).

Since their invention, in the 1950s, GCMs have been further developed and there has been a lot of work and research behind them in each discipline connected to climate science (physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geology, hydrology and so on). Modern models are very accurate in the representation of the (Earth and) climate system and are now able to give us insights into both past climate changes and future climate projections.

 

Reference

Goosse H., P.Y. Barriat, W. Lefebvre, M.F. Loutre and V. Zunz, (2012). Introduction to climate dynamics and climate modeling. Online textbook available at http://www.climate.be/textbook.

Snow Golf Stories – Winterlude Feb 20, 2012

By Juanita Artrip (Gamiing Volunteer) & Rebecca Niblett

Winterlude this year was a big success. Despite the weather throughout the Winter, the day of Winterlude was perfect; sunny and warm, with a good accumulation of snow. We had a wonderful turnout and are looking forward to next year already.

Mom Robin and Collin DeShane, 2 play Snow Golf

Snow golf was one the many hands-on activities set up for kids to play during Winterlude 2012, and it was a big hit!  For those of you who do not know what snow golf is, it is a hybrid of miniature and regular golf, but it is played in the snow with brightly coloured golf balls so you can easily see where your ball lands. Our course this year was built by volunteers and included hills, obstacles, and tricky corners to navigate.

The snow makes it a little bit more challenging to hit a chip or straight shot, but fun and laughs were had by all while playing the nine-hole course.  For more pictures check out the gallery in the Lindsay Daily Post here.

One particularly funny and memorable moment was when a mom was explaining to her little boy how to play snow golf.  She told him to put the ball in the hole, and that’s exactly what he did–by picking up the ball in his hand, running as fast as he could to the hole and dropping it in!

And to that, we say well-played, and we look forward to seeing you on the snow golf course at the next Winterlude!