Once or twice a year - usually fall and spring -- FOAM holds docent training sessions, where volunteers learn how to lead walks each Saturday at 2 p.m. Docents also lead on-request group tours, ranging from preschool to college students and community groups such as Cub Scouts and Rotary. Training sessions usually last two days; docents learn about Arcata Marsh history, birds, plants, invertebrates, wastewater treatment, wetlands, and how to lead tours.
The need for volunteers has grown over the years. In 1995, there were 112 programs and tours at the Marsh, which increased to 147 by 2011. All tours need at least one trained docent to accompany the group, whether on weekdays or weekends. Tours are tailored to the participants' interests and age level and may include birds, wetlands, Marsh history, the wastewater treatment plant, and the Wastewater Aquaculture Project. FOAM has developed a tour packet series that gives docents subject background and recommends points along the trails to stop and discuss various topics. FOAM hosts a volunteer appreciation luncheon as part of its annual meeting where Volunteer of the Year awards are presented. In 2010, occasional informal volunteer get-togethers in coffeehouses (and one brewpub) were initiated by board member Megan McCue.
You don't have to lead a tour to serve as a FOAM volunteer. There is a huge need for people to staff the information desk on weekends and sporadic weekdays or to be on call for special events, giving just a few hours a year by staffing a booth at community events such as Godwit Days, the local birding festival held each April.
In 2012, a full-color brochure was produced that details volunteer opportunities at the Marsh, illustrated with quotes from and photos of volunteers in action.
In 2012, a subcommittee led by Jenny Hanson and Elliott Dabill recommended changes to the current volunteer recruitment and training regimen (e.g., fall and spring weekends of lectures/field trips). A series of monthly lectures for the general public on Marsh-related topics began in August 2012 (see Special Tours, Events, and Lectures subsection on Education page), in the hope that they will attract potential volunteers. Current tour leaders will serve as mentors for interested people, who need to "shadow" at least two tours before being certified.
FOAM also has 11 standing committees that need members beyond the Board of Directors. These committees coordinate special events, tours, and volunteers; consult on new interpretive center exhibits; revamp FOAM's educational efforts; carry out habitat enhancement projects; and update this website. Hours vary with the task.