Volunteer Opportunities

Imagine yourself as a citizen-scientist, up to your waders in a wetland, assessing aquatic plants and insects, checking your environment’s “vital signs.” Visualize standing in a stream using a Secchi tube to measure water transparency. See nature in a new light while you plant trees to shade trout streams, remove invasive species, or clean up stream debris. The VRWJPO offers these and other opportunities for you to put yourself in the picture and experience the watershed first-hand.


The nation’s largest Adopt-a-Drain program is  in the Twin Cities – and the VRWJPO is proud to be a sponsor. This new program invites residents not only in the Vermillion River Watershed but also in the seven-county metro area and Rochester to adopt a storm drain to protect area lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

Sweeping up leaves, trash, and other debris around a storm drain protects local lakes and rivers by preventing pollution from entering our shared waterways. With Adopt-a-Drain, you can get credit for it.


Minnesota Water Stewards

VRWJPO invites residents to become Minnesota Water Stewards. The program provides training and opportunities for residents to protect and improve water quality and habitat, engage your neighbors, and promote clean water.

Freshwater developed the Minnesota Water Stewards (formerly Master Water Stewards) program in 2013, and Vermillion River Watershed is one of many watershed organizations sponsoring the classes. The program provides opportunities for watershed residents to develop expertise in improving and protecting water resources through training, hands-on projects, and outreach.

Minnesota Water Stewards are certified by participating in a a training curriculum led by experts in hydrology, stormwater management, water policy, community-based social marketing, and raingarden assessment and installation. They must complete a capstone project that captures rainfall and allows more water to soak into the ground, and lead a community outreach event. Following certification, the Minnesota Water Stewards can help people in the watershed who are looking for ways to improve their local water resources through specific outreach and action.

The cost to enroll in the Minnesota Water Stewards program in the Vermillion River Watershed is $125 per person, which covers course fees and field trips. The cost will be reimbursed to participants upon certification as a Minnesota Water Steward. Scholarships may be available for those with demonstrated financial hardship.

For more details and to apply, visit minnesotawaterstewards.org. We will post when applications for 2023 are open.

Direct questions to Brita, brita.moore-kutz@co.dakota.mn.us or (952) 891-7967, or freshwater@freshwater.org.

Vermillion River Watershed Wetland Research

Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP)

The Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) trains volunteers to collect data on wetland plants and macroinvertebrates, providing information to local governments about the health of specific wetlands. No experience is necessary. Training is provided. Citizen teams are guided by a team leader. Volunteers spend between 15 and 30 hours from late May through early August checking on wetlands in their communities.

Join one of these teams: Apple Valley, Burnsville, Dakota County Parks, Eagan, Farmington, Hastings, Lakeville, Mendota Heights, North Cannon River Watershed, Rosemount, South St. Paul, and West St. Paul. Each team collects data on up to five wetlands.


Vermillion River Watch

The Vermillion River Watch Program engages individuals, school groups, and community members in monitoring the health of the Vermillion River.

Volunteers participating in the Vermillion River Watch Program visit their stream monitoring site once per week to monitor water transparency (using a Secchi tube), water level, and the general appearance of the stream (water color and recreational suitability). The monitoring data collected by River Watch volunteers is submitted to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) at the end of the field season. It supplements other water quality monitoring efforts taking place along the Vermillion River.

The Vermillion River Watch Program is coordinated for the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization through the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District.

North Creek Tributary to the Vermillion River

Vermillion Stewards

Vermillion Stewards is a volunteer program giving people the opportunity to participate in hands-on educational programs, including prairie ecology hikes, prairie seed collections, clean-up events, streambank and lakeshore restoration projects, trout surveys, and more.

Projects and programs vary throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and volunteers can sign up for those that hit a specific interest. Learn what events are coming up next. The Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) plans and implements the Vermillion Stewards program.


Adopt a River

Adopt a River, founded in 1989, is a program of Freshwater Society. Anyone can sign up to lead a cleanup effort along a shoreline and report your efforts, similarly to Adopt-a-Drain. These projects include one-time events and adoptions with a two-year cleanup commitment. Whether you choose to clean once or several times, your efforts go a long way!

To learn more and sign up, visit Freshwater.