We caught up with Adam Altson, a regular volunteer with the Cape Perpetua Collaborative’s monthly beach cleanups, sea star and marbled murrelet surveys and Marine Reserve Ambassador Program. In addition to volunteering with the Collaborative, he is very active in the community supporting many volunteer-led projects.

1. What inspires you to volunteer? What is your why for volunteering?

This town runs on volunteer power and I like the idea of doing my part.  From our council to the library, Trails crew, all the events we have in the Commons, just about everything is run by volunteers. It feels good to contribute to the well-being of the community.

2. What is the coolest thing you’ve learned since you started volunteering in Yachats?

Well I’m almost to the point that I can recognize a marbled murrelet without an expert standing next to me. 😊 Maybe another year or two on that project. And more importantly, it’s been a very positive experience to see the return of the sea stars the past few years. It was really disturbing to see them effectively wiped out on the Oregon coast a few years ago to the Wasting Disease. Very cool to see them come back!

3. What is something you have learned while volunteering that has helped you in your life? 

Hmm, that’s a tough one.  I can’t think of something tangible, only a general concept.  The volunteering I’ve been doing the last couple of years has helped reinforce to me the notion that I won’t be bored in my retirement. I wouldn’t say that I had many doubts about that anyway, but a few volunteering outlets can really keep a person active and certainly keep them from getting bored. If I did have any nagging doubts about being bored in retirement, volunteering has certainly eliminated those doubts.

4. When you aren’t volunteering, what do you like to do?

I enjoy hiking, golf, and various other sports. There are a handful of locals that get together on a weekly basis to play Pickleball and whiffle-ball. And in the summer, we hit baseballs on a local field. We even chipped in and purchased a pitching machine a couple of years ago. I also love board games. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to loving the nature around here. Sitting and watching the waves, sunsets, whales, sea lions, seals, otters, and the great birding. We truly live in paradise here.

5. Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while volunteering?

I’ve met lots of great people, some of whom I can now honestly call friends. Everyone is so welcoming. A good example is your (Tara’s) husband John, who helped convince me to start down the path of volunteering as a ranger at Cape Perpetua (something I hope to do soon).  Another example is the people who run the Trails Crew. They are great leaders. And I will echo what I’ve heard several people say, including one just today – you (Tara) have been great for the area and for Cape Perpetua.

6. What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?

Some people already know this about me, but one my hobbies is weather watching. More than the average person, that is, as I have a weather station to track the weather, and post the data online so I can monitor it when I am out of town. Anyone else can check it as well, to find out such things as what the peak wind gust was last week (67 mph!), or how many days we reached 70 degrees in 2019 (20, more than the last two years combined).

7. What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? What values and/or lessons would you pass along to someone? 

If you’re thinking about it, then definitely do it. You won’t regret it. You’ll feel good about yourself, your help will be greatly appreciated, and you’ll meet some great people. And it’s a fantastic way to meet people, especially if you’re new in town.

8. Anything else you would like to share?

We all have our hobbies and things we enjoy.  I know you’re focusing on the volunteering aspect here but a lot of the volunteering I do is in line with my interests (OK, maybe not the marine debris cleanups that we do!), so I don’t think of it as volunteering per se. I always wanted to be a scientist, but my career took me in a different direction. Now many of my volunteering avenues are “citizen-science” projects. This is where everyday people can participate and contribute to scientific studies even if they aren’t an expert and don’t have a degree in a particular subject.  The sea star survey you (Tara) lead is one example. The King Tide project is another that I participate in. The marbled murrelet study in the summer is another example. And I’ve been submitting weather data for years to another project called CoCoRaHS.

What’s the quote: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Apply that to volunteering – do what you enjoy and it won’t feel like work!  And in some cases it may not even feel like you’re volunteering. Instead you’re just doing something you enjoy. Some of the birding studies are a great example. If someone is a birder, they’re going to go out and watch the birds anyway. Get involved with a formalized study or citizen-science project is a no-brainer. You do what you love and get the bonus of contributing your knowledge and observations to others.


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