Big Sky Watershed Corps
Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) is an AmeriCorps program that places young professionals in Montana watershed communities where they make a measurable difference in local conservation efforts. This program is an awesome opportunity; allowing young professionals to work closely with a watershed community, implement specialized projects, and provide foundational assistance within their assigned organizations. BSWC is offered through a partnership with the Montana Watershed Coordination Council, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana, and the Montana Conservation Corps.
BRWF has been proud to host a member since the beginning of the program in 2011. It has allowed us to create a youth education program, build capacity and get more projects done for the Bitterroot Valley and we could not be more grateful.
Kalena Gravina - BSWC Member 2011-2012, 2013
Through her two years with BRWF Kalena built our youth education program. Beginning by completing the Youth Natural Resource Education Assessment of the Bitterroot Valley (YNREA) Kalena identified areas where BRWF could provide opportunities for watershed education throughout the Valley. From her research came the Future Irrigators of the Bitterroot Program, a bigger and better Riverfest,and BRWF’s role as the leader of the highly popular but under-funded Earth Stewardship Program (previously run by Bitter Root RC&D).
Kalena went on to Columbia University to pursue a graduate degree in Sustainability Management.
Katie Vennie - BSWC Member 2014
In addition to continuing newly crafted youth education programs, Katie brought a keen attention to detail and high level of creativity to BRWF. These skills helped her overhaul BRWF’s volunteer tracking and project monitoring, develop a new website, and publish fantastic outreach materials from educational brochures to event posters.
Katie was hired by BRWF in March of 2015 to serve as a full-time Program Coordinator.
Carolyn Prescott - BSWC Member 2015
During Carolyn’s time at BRWF she shared her love of puns through outreach emails, keeping supporters informed and engaged about restoration and education activites. Carolyn coordinated BRWF education programs and worked with community members and Realtors to offer the first Adult Irrigation Tour, a spin-off of the Future Irrigators of the Bitterroot field trip.
Carolyn went on to another AmeriCorps program working as a field educator in Jackson, WY.
Stephanie Adams – BSWC Member 2016
During Stephanie's time at BRWF she helped bring more volunteers to the Bitterroot River Clean Up to remove more trash from the the river. She also established a new volunteer team, called the Watershed Enhancement Team, who help to complete maintenance tasks on previously completed projects. Stephanie also put together a standardized monitoring effort to help BRWF monitor project success and needs more closely.
Stephanie went on to work as a Project Coordinator for another watershed group in Minnesota and is now the Director of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana.
Our BSWC Members have
Educated over 4,321 youth
Taught 98 classroom lessons
Created over 26 partnerships
Organized 25 youth field trips
Hosted 4 adult education tours
Lead 94 volunteer days
Recruited over 846 volunteers who have given 5,212 hours of service
Collected over 4,654 data points for project monitoring
Helped restore over 21,159 feet of streambank
Helped to reach the community through local Farmer's Markets
Drafted 19 publications
Kept the community informed with updates to the website, social media and our E-news
Julia Wochos – BSWC Member 2017
Throughout Julia's term at the Water Forum, she led and expanded the Watershed Enhancement Team, as well as coordinated a restoration project at the Hamilton River Park. She piloted a clean-up-all-year river cleanup effort and put together an adult irrigation and restoration tour. Julia also coordinated the Water Forum’s youth education programs and worked with a local rancher to develop to new irrigation curriculum for the Earth Stewardship Program.
Julia headed to Africa in 2019 with her husband Kevin to serve in the Peace Corps and on returning sought to further her education with a Masters in Environmental Education.
Aissa Wise - BSWC Member 2018
Aissa brought her passion and excitement for conservation to the Water Forum, making a big impact on volunteers throughout her term. Aissa helped get the Miller Creek project on the ground, and found her calling in volunteer management and watershed education.
Aissa went on to coordinate a stream monitoring team through the Watershed Education Network in Missoula.
Emilie Lahneman - BSWC Member 2019
Through her 10.5 month term, Emilie was a valuable asset to our team. She shined in our watershed education program, grew and refined our Watershed Enhancement Team (WET), expanded on our "Clean Up All Year" program, and much more.
Emilie headed back to the East Coast working with a nonprofit focused on the Chesapeake Bay.
Grace Pierstorff - BSWC Member 2020
Although Grace's term with the Water Forum was impacted by the pandemic, she led the Watershed Enhancement Team (WET) on restoration project maintenance, created a virtual Field Trip for 7th graders in Ravalli County, and implemented a riparian planting at Hamilton's River Park. The highlights of her term included working with volunteers and implementing environmental education.
Grace went on to serve another AmeriCorps term in Washington focused on environmental education.
Ellie DeVos - BSWC Member 2021
Ellie greatly enjoyed her time with the Water Forum. She began her term working with the Restoration Coordinator on the Skalkaho Bend Park restoration project, and later led her own project on North Burnt Fork Creek. She also made multiple virtual education resources using ArcGIS StoryMaps, including the Irrigation in the Bitterroot Tour.
Ellie will be moving back to Missoula to pursue a career in conservation.
Alexander Amann - BSWC Member 2022
Joining the Bitter Root Water Forum in January of 2022, Alexander will assist with on-the-ground restoration projects focused on improving water quality and wildlife habitat.