Launching Careers in Conservation with Huron Pines AmeriCorps

The Huron Pines AmeriCorps program develops leaders in conservation through career development training, community connections and professional experience. Since 2007, we’ve seen over 300 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members come through the program. 

Members are matched with host sites across the state to carry out restoration initiatives, engage volunteers and educate the public on environmental issues. They devote 1,700 hours to conservation service with organizations like land conservancies, nature centers and state and federal agencies where they gain real life experience in the professional fields they hope to step into.

Through more than a decade of service, Huron Pines AmeriCorps members have restored over 1,400 miles of river, improved over 33,000 acres of public land and reached over 67,000 students across Michigan.

“My experience with Huron Pines AmeriCorps was one of the smartest decisions I could have made professionally.”

Erin Quetell, 2013 member

They make an incredible impact on our natural resources, and yet some of their biggest accomplishments and contributions to conservation come after their service has ended and their careers begin. 

Huron Pines AmeriCorps alumni have found their callings all across the state — in places like Alpena, Detroit, Gaylord and Grand Rapids. They are doers and decision makers in nonprofits, corporate offices and government agencies. Their job titles are diverse but they share a sense of passion and purpose that is clear from the first day of Huron Pines AmeriCorps orientation.

Doug Tyran, Forester and Firefighter

Former member Doug Tyran is a forestry technician with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resource Division in Gaylord and served the DNR in Grayling during his 2016 service term with Huron Pines AmeriCorps.

This August, Tyran ditched the comforts of home to spend two weeks battling wildfires a thousand miles away in the Canadian bush alongside fellow DNR staff and counterparts from Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland, South Africa and the Canadian Armed Forces. Their home base was the Cold Lake area on the 55th parallel in central Canada.

Doug Tyran on a fire break in Manitoba (courtesy photo).

“This was something we all volunteered to do in order to help our neighbors to the north,” Tyran said, noting how Michigan fire crews often assist other agencies in wildfire suppression, particularly in places that are short on people or resources. “We certainly came at a critical time which made our journey all the more worthwhile.”

Photos from the trip show Tyran and his crewmates decked out in smoke-stained wildland firefighting gear, their smiling faces smeared with soot. While not battling wildfires, Tyran and his crew faced spartan living conditions at their backcountry camp — nylon tents and tarp shacks enveloped in a constant smoky haze from nearby wildfires. Down time was spent cooking, fishing and bear-proofing their camp.

Doug Tyran (front, center) and his Michigan DNR firefighting crew during a moment of downtime while clearing fire breaks in Manitoba, Canada this summer (courtesy photo).

The crew cleared fire lines with bulldozers and hand tools, then used water hoses lugged in on bulging backpacks to douse hotspots. The Canadian military attacked larger fires from above by dropping water from helicopters.

Though rugged, Tyran was grateful for the experience.

“Of course there were days where I would have preferred a prepared meal, hot shower and a comfortable bed to sleep in,” he said. “But it was easy to distract myself by enjoying the beautiful river, abundant wildlife and good crewmates. It was really rewarding to take the skills I have gained in Michigan and apply them towards a common goal with people from around the world.”

He credited his experience in Huron Pines AmeriCorps for inspiring him to pursue a masters degree in forestry at Michigan Tech. He worked as a private forester for 10 months until joining the DNR where he manages state forests and participates in the fire program.

“It is the job of my dreams,” he said. “None of this would be possible without the job exposure and work opportunities I received during my service.”

Erin Quetell, Oakland County’s First Environmental Sustainability Officer

Erin Quetell preparing for a ropes course as part of a team building and leadership training camp during her service as a Huron Pines AmeriCorps member in 2013.

Former Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Erin Quetell will step into her role in October as Environmental Sustainability Officer, a newly created position focused on the challenges around environmental protection, social equity and economic prosperity in Oakland County.

Quetell, of Farmington Hills, split her 2013 service year between Little Forks Conservancy and the Leon P. Martuch Chapter of Trout Unlimited, both in Midland. She credits that experience for her early exposure to the importance of preserving urban green spaces and water quality, both of which factor heavily into her new job.

“Making sure we’re protecting our land and water is really important and that’s one of the foundational elements of sustainability,” Quetell said. “My experience with Huron Pines AmeriCorps was one of the smartest decisions I could have made professionally.”

As the county’s first Environmental Sustainability Officer, Quetell will help ensure public open spaces and parks are managed in ways that support the health of the county’s natural resources, its people and business communities.

“It’s about making life better for the people who live in our communities and making sure we have a prosperous economy for all,” she told Huron Pines. “The county is looking to be more progressive with new leadership and hopefully we can be a model for other communities.”

Prior to this new role, Quetell had served as the environmental sustainability planner for the City of Ferndale where she implemented electric-vehicle requirements for new developments, helped transition to hybrid and electric fleet vehicles and expanded an urban tree program, according to a Sept 2 profile in the Oakland County Times. Some notable projects include Ferndale’s first city-owned solar array, a full conversion to LED streetlights, a stormwater infrastructure assessment and downtown waste management plan, greenhouse gas emission inventory and a citywide mobility plan update.

Huron Pines AmeriCorps is a program of Huron Pines and is supported in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Community Service Commission, Huron Pines and contributions from host sites.

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