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NPLD 2020: Examples of Virtual NPLD Events

Though the COVID-19 pandemic will change the way most of us celebrate this year’s National Public Lands Day, it also provides site managers with an opportunity to add a new tool to their public lands engagement toolkit: virtual volunteering events.

The beauty of virtual events is that they can take any form. They require event facilitators to get creative and pull in different elements—video, photos, live Q&As, at-home activities—to educate and entertain their audience. Below are a few examples of innovative virtual volunteer engagement activities that have been successfully implemented on public lands. The goal of this list is to help inspire NPLD site managers as they brainstorm the elements and activities they might want to include in their own virtual NPLD events.  

Virtual Tours

Virtual Yosemite National Park

A virtual tour is a panoramic view or video simulation of an existing place that can be viewed online, often for travel or vacation-related research. They can take many forms, such as a collection of panoramic images that are played in sequence to view like a moving video with added sound and text effects, or using models in place of real-life video and images. Some virtual tours also include music or narration describing points of interest.

Taking it a step further, certain virtual tours can be combined with a treadmill or stationary bike to simulate the experience of hiking or cycling in the outdoors. 

Examples

  • Virtual Yosemite is a groundbreaking interactive tour of one of America’s most popular and spectacular natural environments: Yosemite National Park in California.
  • The National Marine Sanctuary System offers virtual tours of a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. From the thriving kelp forests of Channel Islands to the treasured coral reefs of the Florida Keys, few places on the planet can compete with the wonders of the National Marine Sanctuary System.
Digital Citizen Science

Salish Sea Bioblitz

The term “citizen science” is used to describe the collection and analysis of data by members of the general public as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. In the last decade, advancements in technology have allowed these two groups to work together in exciting new ways, including providing larger datasets to be analyzed, increasing communication between scientists and the public, and providing a wider reach to a broader audience of citizen scientists. Learn more by visiting NEEF’s Citizen Science page.

Examples

  • The Georgia Strait Alliance is hosting a virtual event that will explore different aspects of the diversity of the Salish Sea. Join the event via Zoom and learn how to properly identify the different plants and animals of the Salish Sea. After the talks, participants are encouraged to download the iNaturalist app and get outside to see how many plants and animals they can find during the Salish Sea BioBlitz.
  • NEEF has compiled a list of citizen science projects that focus on documenting changes in local climates, such as documenting wildflower blooms, migratory bird patterns, and even the length of allergy seasons.
Volunteer Trainings

While the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we work with volunteers, stewardship of public lands is more important than ever and must continue! Online volunteer training events are a great way to keep your park’s volunteer workforce engaged during social distancing while also teaching new skills or refining old ones.

Rock Creek Conservancy

For example, land managers could host a volunteer training event on NPLD that is focused on plant identification. Not only is it a great way for participants to interact with staff and each other, it will also make them better volunteers! 

Examples

  • The Rock Creek Conservancy in Washington, DC is using training videos to teach their volunteers how to identify and properly remove invasive English Ivy.
  • Virginia State Parks hosted a virtual event covering how to make a bee hotel with Ranger Grayson at James River State Park.
Wildlife Live Streams

Osprey bird nest

Thanks to the wonders of technology and the dedication of conservationists, it's now possible to watch a range of wildlife around the world via webcams from the comfort of your home. People who might never visit Yellowstone National Park can still watch grizzly bears devouring cutthroat trout and napping on rocks—all from their smartphones.

Not only are they great for engaging volunteers, but wildlife live streams and volunteer-run monitoring programs are an important component for wildlife management on public lands. Monitoring programs can help land managers inventory wildlife on public lands and can help measure effectiveness of different habitat management efforts.

Examples

  • Outside Magazine combed through nearly every free wildlife live stream available (more than 50!) and created a curated, comprehensive list.
  • The San Diego Zoo has live stream video cameras that let you catch a number of the zoo's inhabitants—from koalas to penguins to the new baby orangutan. 
Online Historical Reenactments

Similar to virtual tours, online historical reenactments provide a great way for participants to experience the rich historical and cultural offerings of public lands from the comfort of home.

Revolutionary War reenactment of Battle of Lexington & Concord
©

Example

  • Minute Man National Historical Park, in collaboration with Minuteman Media Network, Lexington Historical Society, Boston NHP, Longfellow House – Washington's Headquarters NHS, and dozens of living history volunteers and scholars, offered a deep dive into the real history of April 19, 1775 through the mediums of web and social media. They highlighted the historical people, places, and events that make up this unique and compelling story through a series of online and virtual events.
NPLD 2020
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Group picture of NPLD volunteers at Rock Creek Park

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Park Ranger at Coldwater Spring, MN for NPLD

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Volunteers at a Rock Creek Park NPLD Event

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