February Volunteer Spotlight: Nick Cusick is a Volunteer of Many Stripes

Nick Cusick

The volunteer we are shining our spotlight on in February is new to the Puget Sound area, yet already can’t imagine leaving. Read more about Nick Cusick’s many contributions to conservation and our community!

Aside from supporting our mission, volunteering is a great way to learn more about the local community and local conservation issues, and develop career experience. No one is taking better advantage of these aspects of volunteering than Nick Cusick. Nick has been living in Tacoma for just a little less than six months and has already logged 100 hours volunteering with us on projects supporting four different teams

Read our interview below to learn what makes Nick unique and why we consider him an outstanding volunteer!

The Nature Conservancy: Where are you from?  How long have you been living in Washington?

Nick: I am originally from Alaska (Anchorage), although most recently I lived in California (Santa Rosa), where I served as an AmeriCorps member. I just moved to the Puget Sound region last September in what I anticipate as a slowly returning migratory path to Alaska (at least, that’s the idea, although I’m already finding it hard to imagine ever leaving Washington).

TNC: What is your favorite tree?

Nick: Larches recently won me over. I went up to the Enchantments last fall in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the high contrast of the yellowed larches against the glacier-scoured granite left a deep impression on me. It was a captivating first introduction to Washington state, and it serves as one more validating reason, among many, I now choose to call this place my home.

TNC: How does volunteering make you feel more connected to nature and your community?

Nick: I choose to volunteer as a token of goodwill and as a conscious statement to my community that they are worth investing in, supporting and promoting. My time as a volunteer has increasingly exposed me to what matters most on a local scale, with the added benefit of meeting some incredibly intelligent and passionate people along the way.

TNC: What gives you the most hope for the future?

Nick: People give me hope. Fostering deeper relationships with fellow community members who are making significant differences on a local level has inspired my own journey toward wanting to incite meaningful change. The issues that the Puget Sound region faces are daunting, certainly, but it’s difficult to be discouraged when in such inspiring company.

TNC: What is your favorite Nature Conservancy preserve or project?

Nick: My first exposure to The Nature Conservancy included a small tour of its Big Springs Ranch property in Northern California (Siskiyou County). The property hosts a critical spring that supplies cold freshwater for the mainstem Shasta River. A recent water-quality analysis that I was involved with (in my previous job function) revealed that, owing at least in part to collaborative restoration work completed on the property, remarkable water temperature improvements were made in Big Springs Creek and the mainstem Shasta River nearby. The Nature Conservancy is just a small piece in larger watershed-improvement strategies — but what a notable and important piece it is!

Big Springs Creek runs through TNC's Shasta Big Springs Ranch in Siskiyou County, California.  Photo © Erika Nortemann / TNC

TNC: What inspired you to start volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?

Nick: When I first moved to the Puget Sound region, The Nature Conservancy was one of the first organizations that I sought out to immediately plug into as a volunteer. I knew that TNC, with its high-caliber and innovative research, plays a significant role in larger conservation efforts, and I wanted to be a part of that. The time that I’ve spent with TNC to date has provided invaluable instruction on complex environmental issues, and I’m thankful for every chance that I’ve been given to work with their dedicated, intelligent staff.

TNC: What is your volunteer role?

Nick: I’ve been working on a variety of projects for The Nature Conservancy, including volunteer recruitment, grants research and more complex technical work, such as GIS data compilation and web-map publishing. I am currently researching and compiling data on property and transfer restrictions for TNC’s many properties.

TNC: Do you volunteer anywhere else?

Nick: In addition to my time spent with The Nature Conservancy, I also actively volunteer with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (Seattle), Shadow Lake Nature Preserve (Renton) and the Tacoma Tool Library.

TNC: What is your spirit animal and why?

Nick: My closest spirit animal (we all have many) is an Arctic ground squirrel. Their diminutive and pesky nature agrees well with my lifestyle of being a bit of a loner, yet well-adjusted to higher altitudes. Their distinctive chirp always provided a welcoming call on my many hikes and wanderings up in the mountains when I was younger.

Inspired by Nick’s story and want to get involved as a TNC volunteer? Join our next volunteer info session, Thursday, Feb. 15. Noon to 1 p.m. in our Seattle office!