Veterans Day Celebration: Chris Sutherland
Our Outreach Coordinator had the pleasure of sitting down with a group of current and former VetsWork Interns to discuss their service, current roles, and connections to the outdoors. Read below about Chris Sutherland, Field Technician for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP).
United States Coast Guard
Field Technician for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Portland Oregon.
Tell me about your current position.
I am currently serving as a field technician with Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP), the position focuses on habitat restoration and monitoring, education, clean waterways, and fish passage. There is a lot of working with plants, planting and removing them, prepping sites for future plantings and educational outreach programs. There is a good amount of time spent in or on the water doing fish recovery and community paddle events in our 29-foot canoes. I have worked with our science team in some amazing wetlands retrieving data for monitoring, I have built monitoring wells, sediment benchmarks, and set aerial drone targets for mapping. The job is very diverse, challenging, and physical at times. Being wet is required.
What is your favorite part about your position?
Aside from being able to work outside, I think the most favorite thing is knowing that almost everything I do in my position is serving a greater cause; everything I do is just as important in the process of what our mission is. I believe in what I’m doing so I feel a sense of accomplishment.
What is one thing you have learned so far? About yourself, this line of work, the organization, etc.?
I continue to learn daily in my position. Every site offers up unique challenges specific to its own. I have learned that I am just as much a part of the landscapes I work in and I find a lot of unity among the people I work with. I have also seen a lot of diversity and flexibility in this organization and the field overall.
Tell me about your connection to the outdoors. What draws you to the natural world?
I grew up playing in California beaches and Redwoods so I can’t remember a time not being in a forest or playing in a waterway of some sort. I have always had a connection with the natural world and a soft spot for wounded things, plants, animals, and even bugs. I find a lot of reflection in the natural world; it’s a place to heal the mind and heart, I love hiking the Columbia River Gorge with my son Liam showing him all the things that I have learned from this experience.
How do you feel about working/living in the outdoors?
I love working and living in the outdoors, it’s the best office any person could have. Working in the outdoors has taught me to have great respect for the environment and all creatures.
Why do you think is it important to protect public lands and natural resources?
We do not have unlimited resources it only makes sense to protect them, a lot of species rely on these environments not just humans, we need to make sure future generations have theses resources as well.
Service is a major focus of AmeriCorps. What does service mean to you?
I think service means setting aside pride, being open-minded and willing to work for others sake. Service can come in many forms; even the smallest amount of service could make a tremendous difference.
What made you decide to continue serving our country after your military service?
Like most Veterans, I still felt I could be of valuable service to a cause I care about.
As a veteran, what was the transition like from active-duty service to corps membership? Do you think other veterans could benefit from similar opportunities?
I think all veterans could benefit from this program, the transition is an easy one and offers a similar structure to the military. There is a camaraderie amongst veterans and mission driven attitude that allows for success.
How has VetsWork affected your career goals?
VetsWork has helped me narrow down organizations I would like to work for and the types of positions I would like to pursue. I know before VetsWork, I would have been happy doing about anything in a natural resource setting. VetsWork has given me opportunities for trainings, certifications, and educational awards that I will be using once my term ends.
Do you have any funny stories to share?
Most involve people falling in water, not something to joke about but can be hard not to snicker when someone takes a plunge. I have had my share of face planting out in the environment, a log you don’t see, a beaver hole that swallows your leg, physical comedy is great but safety first.