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Published April 29, 2011, 12:00 AM

Helping hand across country

Rochert man honored for volunteerism
Rochert, Minn. - Denis Mudderman has raised volunteerism to an art form. When the Rochert resident isn’t devoting countless hours of volunteer work to the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, he travels clear across the country to do the same thing.

Rochert, Minn. - Denis Mudderman has raised volunteerism to an art form. When the Rochert resident isn’t devoting countless hours of volunteer work to the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, he travels clear across the country to do the same thing.

Now Mudderman has received national recognition for his hard work. He has been chosen as the 2011 Refuge Volunteer of the Year by the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Association.

“It was a big surprise,” Mudderman says of the honor, which he received March 12.

Mudderman has volunteered at Tamarac since 2005. A native of Moorhead, he remembers spending summers at adjoining Cotton Lake as a boy.

“Tamarac is such a special place,” he says. “You drive up there and as soon as you cross that boundary into Tamarac, it’s like going into a special, tranquil zone.”

Now he’s been able to spend a lot of time at the place he liked so much as a boy. So far, he has racked up more than 7,000 hours of service.

Through Mudderman’s involvement with Friends of Tamarac, he designed and launched the Friends of Tamarac website and coordinated the Joint Refuge and Friends newsletter.

Mudderman has researched, developed and presented refuge history tours and other interpretive programs, including “photo safaris,” which help families use digital photography to connect with nature.

Mudderman says he especially enjoys leading environmental education activities, which use GPS and digital photography to reinforce technology skills in kids.

In addition, Mudderman co-chairs the Tamarac/National Wildlife Refuge Photo Contest planning committee, conducts wildlife surveys and serves as refuge photographer at special events.

Most recently, through a Nature of Learning Grant he wrote on behalf of the Friends of Tamarac, Mudderman researched, purchased the necessary equipment for and worked with refuge staff to install a webcam inside an active beaver lodge. It’s believed to be the only camera chronicling that species at any refuge nationwide.

“That was just sort of mesmerizing,” Mudderman says, describing how the rodents took on almost human qualities at times.

Through his contacts at Tamarac, Mudderman was able to extend his volunteer efforts to the Texas Gulf Coast. He is just winding up a third winter at Brazoria and San Bernard national refuges in southeast Texas, and has accumulated more than 3,000 hours there.

“At Tamarac, you’ve got trumpeter swans, loons and deer. Here, you’ve got alligators. It’s quite a contrast.”

Mudderman explains what drives him to volunteer.

“It’s working as part of a community toward a greater goal with friends, volunteers and staff working as colleagues,” he says. “It is seeing results from one’s effort, it is using one’s skills and satisfying interests and it is being out and experiencing nature.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

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