Friends have stories to tell, and The Link staff would like to share them with our readers! Send us a short account about the creative ways you’ve found to network and promote your refuge, hatchery, or organization during these COVID times. Then we’ll publish them in our spring issue, due out in April.
Without the usual in-person meetings, fundraisers, special events, festivals, and county fairs, we’ve all had to find new ways to stay connected with our communities. What has worked for you? Please let us know! A few sentences are adequate, or if you’re ambitious, send a couple of paragraphs—it’s like writing a Facebook post! Then attach a photo if you have one and send to: CoalitionRefugeFriends@gmail.com by Friday, March 12.
Bob Olson worked at the Kīlauea Point Lighthouse over 50 years ago. The lighthouse sits atop a rocky peninsula on the northwest coast of the Island of Kaua’i, 180 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It is now part of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge that is home to some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds in Hawai’i.
Recently, Thomas Daubert, Executive Director of Friends of Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuges, had the opportunity to learn about Bob’s experience and capture it for the Friends.
TD: When did you work at the Lighthouse and what was your role? BO: I was stationed with the United States Coast Guard Group Kauaʻi from 1967-68. I lived in Poʻipū but one of my primary jobs, as the Lead Electronics Technician, was to maintain the radio equipment and radio beacon at the Kīlauea Lighthouse. The equipment was located, at the time, in the concrete building located just west of the Lighthouse (now referred to as the “Contact Station”). Radio beacons were in use at Kīlauea Point since World War II and required regular maintenance. My duties also included servicing equipment at Makahuena Point.
TD: How did you end up serving on Kauaʻi? BO: Before I was stationed on Kauaʻi, I was stationed in Hilo. A shipmate of mine on the Cape Small was Norman Peleiholani. He previously lived and worked at the Kīlauea Point Lighthouse serving as a Lighthouse Keeper. I became very close to him and his family at the time and he spoke so highly of his time on Kauaʻi that I sought out a role there for my next station assignment.
TD: What are some of your memories of your time being stationed here? BO: I remember how great the experience was of the team working at the Lighthouse. Everyone knew everyone and were like family. When I worked on the radio equipment, I was welcomed to dinner with the lighthouse keepers and their families. I remember coming to the Lighthouse after one particularly bad storm. I was really surprised to see that the storm had broken out the windows in the beacon building. We had to board up the building and clean and dry out the equipment. During another stormy day, I remember sitting at Secret Beach and watching the spray hit all the way up to the Lighthouse, which is already really high above the ocean.
TD: Where were you stationed after your time on Kauaʻi? BO: After my station assignment on Kauaʻi concluded, I served in Vietnam. After the war, I was stationed on a number of different ships and also at another lighthouse, located at Point Arguello, California. There, I will always remember being awakened by the fog horns, which of course you don’t have at Kīlauea Point!
TD: Have you been back to Kīlauea since you were stationed here? BO: I had such a great experience during my time on Kauaʻi that I always intended to come back to another station assignment on Kauaʻi or to retire there. Unfortunately, my 21-year career with the US Coast Guard didn’t allow for another “overseas” assignment. After my career wound down, I found myself with my family in Northern California. However, I was able to visit Kauaʻi around 2006 with my family.
TD: When you visited, what were some of the primary differences you noted from your time working here? BO: When I lived in Poʻipū, Koloa was still a plantation town and there were just two resorts in Poʻipū. Makahuena Point, where I also worked, has changed a lot and is now just a site for condos. I also really noticed the massive erosion to a number of south shore beaches after the two hurricanes that impacted Kauaʻi. Out at Kīlauea Point, the experience is also very different. The lighthouse is no longer in operation and, therefore, is no longer maintaining a staff of lighthouse keepers. Also, many more people visit the site than my time and, when I was stationed there, guests were only allowed into the first floor of the Lighthouse since it was still operational. Now, I understand that visitors can go up to see that beautiful fresnel lens!
TD: Since your time here, this site has become part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. What wildlife did you observe at Kīlauea Point during your time here? BO: I frequently saw a lot of seabirds. I remember seeing an albatross once in a while. I was accustomed to seeing them at sea during my time stationed on ships, but not on land. That was a unique sight.
TD: Mahalo nui loa Bob for your service to our country and to our beautiful lighthouse, and for taking the time to share these memories with our supporters!
Thank you to Tom and the Friends of Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuges for letting us share this story with you.
Just like at your refuge, all the public facilities at Ottawa NWR in Ohio closed in response to COVID-19. Ultimately, the Biggest Week in American Birding, which attracts more than 90,000 visitors to the refuge and other lands along the shore of Lake Erie, had to be canceled. It was a blow to the local community and to the Friends because spring and early summer are the busiest times at the refuge.
The visitor center and the Friends store are the heart of the Ottawa NWR. That’s where the Friends of Ottawa’s staff and volunteers connect with members of the community. The Friends didn’t want to lose that connection, so they went about replicating the sense of community online. Aimee Arent, Executive Director of the Friends, shared what they’ve done, what has resulted, and how people have reacted.
First, they began expanding email communication to let folks know what’s happening on the refuge and to share refuge photos. Using creative subject lines like, “It might be worth staying up past your bedtime!” they saw email open rates jump from 25% to 45-50%. They also heard from a state health care official, dealing with COVID-19, who told them that their messages were a “desperately needed breath of fresh air.”
Next, they have been calling members,volunteers and donors to see how they are doing—and letting people know that the Friends care about them. Although callers haven’t solicited donations, many of those who were called renewed their memberships early or upgraded to a higher giving level.
Finally, Ottawa Friends began increasing Facebook activity, even adding an easy-to-join Photography Club subgroup. Results were again positive. Their followers increased by more than 300, and they were especially pleased when one member, who had declared that she would never use Facebook, became an enthusiastic member of the Photo Club group.
Putting the community first has strengthened the Friends’ ties to its members, volunteers, and donors—for now and into the future.
The other day I was out in my garden pulling weeds and tending to the soil so that my soon-to-be-planted vegetables and flowers will flourish. Just like gardens, your website also needs regular attention. And, since you are all adhering to social distancing measures (right?), now is a great time to spruce up your virtual information garden.
More people are staying home and accessing the internet so, it’s likely they are also visiting your website more. Here is a hit list of easy tasks you could accomplish right now to make your website more inviting to your virtual visitors. Just do one or two a day and, before you know it, you’ll be done!
Check each page for accuracy, grammar, and typos. Remove or update outdated information.
Update your mission and vision page so that it reflects your current practices.
Check for broken links and fix or remove them. Use this easy online tool to help you find them.
Test and update your site navigation (menus, footers, sidebars, widgets, etc.) and improve where necessary. Make it easy for visitors to find information on your site. How do they look on mobile devices? How about in different browsers?
Update your staff and board information and resolve to keep it updated whenever changes occur.
Add unique page titles to each of your webpages. Why are page titles important? Page titles are metadata elements used by search engines, browsers, and accessibility tools to read and understand what your webpage is about. Title tags are used in three key places: (1) search engine results pages, (2) web browsers, and (3) social networks.
NOTE: Metadata is “data about data.” That clears it right up, eh? Basically, it is information that is about other data. So, a page title is information about a webpage, it is not the actual content displayed on the page.
Add a “Contact Us” page that uses a form for visitors to submit. Make it easy for your visitors to contact you or subscribe to your communications. It is a best practice to use a web form to collect visitor inquiries rather than posting an email address in clear text. Email addresses posted on a website are easily harvested by spam robots and used for disreputable purposes. Adding a contact form varies by platform. Check your platform help for specifics. Contact forms vs email address.
Design your site using a uniform look and feel. Don’t be a “Frankensite.” Choose a color palette and stick with it throughout your site. Use the same font types and sizes throughout your entire site. Two font types are best, but no more than 3 font types should be used, ever! Use heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) for various page and paragraph headings. For example, when including a title for a paragraph, do not insert normal-styled text and make it bold. Apply a heading style instead.
Why? Headings help visitors read and understand the structure of your site. This is especially important for accessibility. Also, search engines use these heading tags to recognize key words and to understand what your site is about–this will improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Review your call to action buttons and links (e.g., Donate, Join, Take Action) to ensure they are prominent on your main page and available from every page. Don’t forget to check how they look on multiple devices—desktops, tablets, phones.
Add a search box to your site and ensure it displays on every page. Having an effective search box helps visitors find what they are looking for on your site.
Include appropriate ties to your social media sites. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content to their social media.
If you are using WordPress, keep your plugins current and delete any plugins that are not being used on your site. Outdated and unused plugins can be a security risk and may also crash your site.
Make sure you have good color contrast between background colors and text. Use this online color contrast validator to check your site. This is important for meeting accessibility standards.
Review all your images and add missing ALT text tags. What is ALT text and why is it important? The primary purpose is to provide an alternative description of images for your visitors who are sight-impaired or otherwise unable to visually identify an image. It also applies to situations where visitors are using screen readers or a web browser that blocks the display of images. ALT tags also provide better context and descriptions to search engines to help index images properly.
Is your site using a responsive design? A responsive website is a design that allows your website to adapt to the size of any screen it is being viewed on. Test how your website looks in different browsers and on different devices, such as, desktops, tablets, and phones; adjust as needed. Use this online tool to find out if your web site is mobile friendly.
Repurpose documents, such as PDFs and Word documents, to an HTML-based webpage or blog post that is readable within your site. Anything that is meant to be viewed onscreen and not printed should be in an HTML webpage. There are many reasons for avoiding posting PDFs on your website. PDFs and other document formats frequently take people away from your webpage and are difficult to navigate, especially on mobile devices or for people with disabilities. Your annual report that is long and printable is an example of when you would post a link to a PDF file. Items such as directions to your refuge or a list of volunteer opportunities should be posted as an HTML webpage.
NOW KEEP IT GOING
And last, make a schedule of regular maintenance tasks for the year! These can be organized by timeframe, for example, do XYZ monthly, do ABC quarterly and so on.