Mono Lake volunteers
From leading tours at South Tufa and pulling invasive weeds to stuffing fundraising mailings and talking with visitors at the lakeshore, volunteers are an important part of protecting Mono Lake and the Mono Basin.
Hear from a few of the outstanding Mono Lake Volunteers about who they are and why they love Mono Lake:
"Before retiring, I lived in Los Gatos, California for 23 years. My husband and I divide our time between Lundy Canyon and Prescott, Arizona. I enjoy hiking around the Mono Lake area and kayaking on Lundy Lake. It is great fun interacting with all of the Mono Lake visitors who are hungry for information about this beautiful and ancient place."
"I am originally from Southern California where I grew up camping in the Sierra. My husband Tony and I spent summers in Mammoth in the 1990s so I could be a Student Conservation Association volunteer at the Mono Basin Visitor Center and we have lived in Mammoth full-time since 1998. My education is in biology and I have taught, been the editor of a journal on whales and dolphins, and was the director of a nature center in Connecticut for many years. We have three children and four granddaughters who love to visit us in Mammoth. My favorite volunteer activity is to focus my scope on an Osprey nest to begin conversations with visitors at South Tufa and catch shrimp with kids."
Harold & Betsy McDonald
Harold and Betsy are retired educators from schools in Inyo County. Harold was a high school math and science teacher and Betsy a business, health and computer applications teacher and then principal for elementary and continuation schools. Harold's degree is in Biology from UC Santa Cruz and Betsy's is in Conservation of Natural Resources from UC Berkeley, so this is a perfect post retirement volunteer activity for both of them. They love South Tufa—Betsy sets up the Osprey scope and Harold woos the groups in with his enthusiastic brine shrimp and alkali fly demonstration.
"We were amazed at our first three-hour stint—over 12 countries represented and as many languages. What a thrill to be working at one of the best examples in the world of an environmental success story. We are humbled by all those who worked so hard to save this amazing place and are honored to do our small part to ensure that humankind will always cherish and protect Mono Lake."
"I help with the restoration of Mono Lake—removing invasive weeds and also trail work. My nickname is "Maddog" so I try to live up to the name. I live in Hawthorne, Nevada. I love snowboarding, hiking, and biking."
Originally introduced to Mono Lake by her now husband, and fellow volunteer, Rich, Cathy Foye fell in love with the Eastern Sierra (photo at right: Cathy, Rich, and volunteer Rosemarie Willimann). So much so that after 25 years in Fullerton, California the couple moved to Mammoth Lakes full time in the fall of 2009, then proceeded to become volunteers in spring of 2010. Cathy helps coordinate volunteer trainings and is a steadfast helper for cleanups on the Mono Lake Committee's Adopt-A-Highway segment south of Lee Vining. On summer Saturdays you can catch Cathy at Navy Beach with a scope trained on Osprey nests while Rich leads Panum Crater tours. Cathy is a firm believer that volunteering is "a great way to meet people and share the enjoyment of this special place. It is so satisfying to know you have enhanced someone's trip in the Eastern Sierra."
Jo Bacon (above, left)
Jo originally discovered the wonders of the Eastern Sierra in the 1970s on a trip to cross country ski and eventually moved to Mammoth Lakes full-time in 2002 after more than 25 years in Riverside, California. She served as mayor of Mammoth Lakes for eight years then another two on the planning commission, along with doing interpretive work for the Mammoth Ranger District. Jo primarily leads tours of South Tufa and helps out at the Forest Service Mono Basin Visitor Center. Shealso often helps out with giving tours to school groups that visit the area. One of her fondest memories is leading a tour for Mammoth Middle School students in the winter and, "even though everyone needed their parkas and the wind and foam off the lake were blowing everywhere, they loved it!" Jo loves interpretive tours because "language is no barrier, you don't need English to touch, feel, and understand nature."
Janet "JB" Barth
After falling in love with the Mono Basin during a high school outdoors club camping trip, JB moved from Napa to Benton and became a Mono Lake Volunteer in 2017. In addition to volunteering at Mono Lake to get rid of invasive plants in the area and greeting boaters at Navy Beach, she has become a vital part of both Mono350 and Inyo350 climate action groups, wilderness projects with the Bureau of Land Management, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care, and Freedom in Motion, while also continuing to work for various groups such as Friends of the Napa River and the Napa Land Trust in her former home. The Mono Lake Committee has a special place in JB's heart, as she has been a member and advocate ever since the Committee's founding in 1978—"It embodies everything I have worked or volunteered for my whole life, so it's a no brainer I became involved here!"
Rhonda Starr & Hank Garretson
"My husband, Hank, and I have been volunteering at Mono Lake since 2004. We moved to Mammoth Lake full time after retirement. We volunteer at South Tufa, Thursdays during the summer, giving the 10:00am tour. We enjoy nature study, reading, biking, and hiking; plus, Hank is an avid skier. We enjoy sharing our knowledge of the basin with all of the domestic and foreign visitors. As Hank often tells our visitors at the beginning of our tour, 'We want to infect you with the specialness of Mono Lake.' It is gratifying to receive comments of 'thank you,' 'how interesting,' etc. from our visitors. Plus, we just enjoy being out there."
The Mono Lake Volunteer program is a joint initiative sponsored by the US Forest Service, California State Parks (the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve), and the Mono Lake Committee, with support from the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association and the Bodie Foundation.
The Mono Lake Volunteer program has been extremely beneficial to Mono Lake—each year, volunteers contribute hundreds of hours of time—thank you volunteers!
Volunteer training consists of six field sessions focused on exploring visitor areas around the Mono Basin. There is no charge for the training, but participants agree to volunteer for at least eight hours each month from June through September.
If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information please contact Office Director Jessica Horn at (760) 647-6595.