August Volunteer Spotlight

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteers, Dan Bender, below!

Originally from Newton, MA, Dan has lived in Medford for 10 years. After working in the tech start up space for some time, he eventually found his way to professional scuba diving. Dan discovered his love for diving in the Caribbean where he became invested in reef conservation efforts. He now co-owns a dive boat in Gloucester and has been teaching others to dive for about six years.

After participating in reef conservation work in the Caribbean when he was able to, Dan decided he wanted to work on conservation projects closer to home, which is where his interest in the Trail Adopter program began. He stumbled upon the Trail Adopter program and Friends of the Fells through an online event posting during the early days of the pandemic. Dan dove into the volunteer activities straight away.

Dan’s passion is in the conservation of biodiversity and his focus is on invasive species management and education. Dan wants to educate the public about invasive plant species and help spread awareness about their impact on the ecosystems and native plants of the Fells.

In addition to volunteering with Friends of the Fells, Dan also spends time volunteering with Earthwise Aware (EwA). He uses his knowledge of invasive species and works with EwA with their invasive plant monitoring project, as well as participates in their rogue trail mapping project. Dan discovered EwA when a friend expressed interest in documenting vernal pool activity utilizing tools and skills from their experience with underwater photography. EwA has extensive ongoing initiatives to certify vernal pools and document the diverse organisms that they hold.

Dan discovered the Fells because of its mountain biking trails and he fell in love with the Fells for its walking trails. He moved close enough to spend every day in the Lawrence Woods walking his dog, Coco. Dan and Coco spend their time out in the Fells hiking, documenting, and exploring.

Some of Dan’s favorite spots in the Fells are the damp, verdant, and sun-dappled environments that are jeweled with a diversity of native ferns and carpeted with mosses. One of Dan’s favorite memories from walking with Coco is when she was investigating an old log on the side of the trail and a flying squirrel jumped out. “I knew they existed, but I had never encountered one in the wild, so that was really special that we have flying squirrels and they live right here in the Fells,” Dan said.

“Start somewhere,” is Dan’s advice to anyone interested in volunteering. “[Make] a decision about where you want to start and dive in. There are so many cool opportunities, it can seem overwhelming. Pick a trailhead that looks promising and meander along the paths until you find an initiative that you love. Like the Fells, everything is connected in one way or another so go out and participate.”

If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities, read about our volunteer program here or check out our calendar here.