September Volunteer Spotlight: Ellenda Wulfestieg

Ellenda Wulfestieg at Chuckanut Island 

The Nature Conservancy is fortunate to have 100’s of volunteers who support our mission, doing on the ground restoration, outreach, office administration, photography, research, and anything imaginable that adds to our success.

Of our many volunteers, Ellenda stands out because she volunteers for events all over the state, she volunteers frequently in a variety of roles, and is willing to come out to volunteer at a moment’s notice! This is why we are featuring her as our Volunteer Spotlight for September.


Recently we asked Ellenda to tell us more about herself and why she volunteers. Below is what she had to say. We certainly enjoyed learning more about one of our most enthusiastic supporters, and we hope you will too!

Why did I join The Nature Conservancy?  It’s a no brainer, I love nature and want to help protect and preserve it as long as I can.  My love of the outdoors goes back to childhood.  I am from a family (I have brothers) that went camping and back packing every summer.  We started out with blankets pinned together as tents in the early 1950s camping on the beaches of California, moved up to heavy canvas tents for the Sierras in the late 50s, and into nylon lean-tos, pup tents, and backpacks for the high Sierras in the 60s.  My grandmother bought a mountain and a half in Southern California in 1950 and when we weren’t camping or backpacking, we were spending summers and holidays at grandma’s; climbing in the mountains, making trails, and learning about the animals and plants. 

As well as joining The Nature Conservancy I have also joined other conservation NGOs such as The Ocean Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but I only volunteer my time for TNC, for work parties and as an Ambassador because I believe that TNC actually gets things done.  I love the fact that TNC is worldwide, that they employ scientists, that they work with other agencies, and mostly that they have a long, long range view of conservation as well as a we-can-do-this-right-now attitude.

Why did I become active with TNC?  My husband was bed ridden for 10 years so I was pretty much house-bound and when he passed away I wanted to get out into the world again.  I thought to myself, what a better way than to volunteer my time to organizations I believe in.  I first volunteered at a spay and neuter clinic but it was inside and I wanted to get outside into the nature that I had missed for 10 years.  I picked TNC because of the interesting projects that I could get involved in that would both get me outside and would teach me things.  I loved all the work crews I volunteered for so much that I decided to volunteer to become an Ambassador for TNC.  Being an Ambassador has been a kick.  You meet some VERY interesting people, some have even become friends.  You get to have fun while teaching people what TNC is all about.  I will be very interested to see how many, if any, of the people who showed so much interest and excitement about joining TNC work parties actually show up next year.  I hope a lot of them.

What have been my most interesting experiences with TNC?  I have enjoyed all of my work crew experiences.  I loved the first work crew I volunteered for, planting trees at Fisher Slough.  I was up in Bellingham visiting my niece and decided to take her 3 girls, ages 4, 6, and 8, with me.  We had a great time.  They all carried the tree starts to plant while I dug the holes, fun fun.  I also loved pulling ivy on Chuckanut Island, so much so that I donated my Expedition watch to the island.  Somewhere in the middle of the island while climbing under and over logs in search of evil ivy my watch was torn off my wrist.  I didn’t even feel anything when it happened, but I hope the trees and animals appreciate the soft ticking sound it will make for the next couple of years and I hope it doesn’t stimulate evil ivy growth.  I’m taking my new watch off for the next ivy pull. 

As an Ambassador I think that I enjoyed the WTA@50 event the most.  Yes we got soaked in the rain, yes it was chilly/cold, yes the turnout wasn’t as large as we expected, yes one of the tents blew over and broke two legs, but the people who attended and the organizations that were represented were very in tune with the mission of TNC.   I enjoyed talking with them and learning about the things they are interested in.  I’ve enjoyed all of my Ambassadorial events except one; it was just boring because of the location where they put us and because the attendees were not interested in learning about TNC or anything else that day.

Who am I?  I was christened Ellen but being 5’10” at age12 and taller than all the boys, I decided that Ellen was too short a name for me, so for years I tried adding prefixes and suffixes until I finally decided on Ellenda.  I am a psychologist and archaeologist by education and have been an Ethnographic Conservator for the Museum of the American Indian (now part of the Smithsonian), a journeyman electrician, a refinery maintenance foreman and superintendent, the president of an import company in Venezuela, an English as a Second Language instructor for adults, and now an employee of the Educational Testing Service scoring SAT and TOEIC exams. 

Where have I lived?  After high school I decided not to live longer than 4 years in any one spot and my mom was all for that because she loved to travel, but didn’t want to go by herself. With me living in different parts of the States and the world, she could visit me and I’d show her around.  I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Berkeley, New York, New Orleans, and Houston.  Overseas I have lived in England, Germany, Mexico, Aruba, Curacao, Venezuela and Costa Rica.  I have traveled around many European countries, spent time in the Amazon rainforest as well as the Costa Rican rainforest.  I still love traveling and am planning a long trip to Scotland and Ireland with my granddaughter in 2020.

If you enjoyed reading about Ellenda’s experience as a volunteer, and would like to get involved, please visit our volunteer page to learn more!