2016 Volunteer of the Year

Each year, Nature Conservancy staff members vote on who will receive the distinction of being named "volunteer of the year." With more than 200 volunteers active on a regular basis and more than 1500 volunteers “on call,” a person has to have made an unusually generous contribution of his or her time, talent and energy to receive this honor. 

This year’s volunteer of the year leads the Foulweather Bluff Preserve Committee, helping to coordinate an especially dedicated team of local community members in stewarding, educating and safe-guarding the preserve. He has coordinated and facilitated meetings twice a year, stayed connected with area schools for engagement and education and provided the community (and The Nature Conservancy!) hours of friendly, heart-felt, ecologically grounded service and knowledge.

Congratulations to Dave Allen on being selected as The Nature Conservancy in Washington’s 2016 volunteer of the year!

Dave Allen, in front in a blue jacket

Dave Allen, in front in a blue jacket

Dave was nominated by Stewardship Manager Randi Shaw in this heartfelt essay:

The Foulweather Bluff Committee and Docent teams as a whole do an awe-inspiring job of walking the talk — and talking while walking. They get out weekly, if not daily, during the summer season to make sure of sustainable use by visitors. They do maintenance work to keep the ecosystem of both the coastal forest and nearshore habitats thriving. Dave does this too, on and off the property. However, what makes him a clear choice for this award were his determined efforts to revive an important educational outreach program connected to the preserve.
Dave took a long-standing field trip and science and ecology book-donation program for three area elementary schools that had lapsed and revived it, resulting in six days of field trips in a single summer and the purchasing of $2,000 worth of books for the three schools. This was no easy feat, as school administrators had changed, awareness of the grant has been lost and there was no clear leading entity to collaborate with. Nonetheless, he stuck with it until a schedule of trips was implemented and a suite of worthwhile books had been bought. Not only did he revive the program, Dave hosted the field trips — which can total up to 20-plus youths at a time. He gave generously of his time, knowledge and resources, providing local history and ecological knowledge, purchasing supplies out of his own pocket, such as binoculars and identification cards, and handling the majority of the communication and logistics. He plans to continue supporting the program into the future, and The Nature Conservancy will certainly be there to cheer him on. 
His tenacity and earnestness are a rare gem in a volunteer. He has stuck by the preserve and the potential for it to inspire, educate and rejuvenate the human community, while he and the Foulweather Bluff Committee ensure that it remains ecologically vital for years to come. 

Thank you for your many years of service Dave! We congratulate and thank you — along with our other nominees: Alicia Rhoades, Hannah Letinich, Larry and Becky Scholl, Jeff Osmundson and Rick Skiba — for your outstanding achievements. 

Learn More About Volunteering

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!

Search Party for Pygmy Rabbits

Written & Photographed by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator and Anna Snook, Volunteer Photographer

A hike in Washington’s sage brush country will reveal plant, animal, and bird populations distinct from those on the West Side of the state. On a typical day one would be lucky to see mule deer, badgers, meadow larks, mourning doves, small horned lizards and a great many other small mammals, birds and reptiles. Ideally if you saw a rattle snake it would be from a distance. Something you most likely wouldn’t encounter would be a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. Although native to this region, the pygmy rabbit is in danger of becoming extinct. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been working on a project to breed these rabbits in semi-captivity and reintroduce populations back into the wild, including on our Beezley Hills Preserve. Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction is challenging work. There is no manual on how it’s done. Wildlife biologists, using their knowledge of the rabbit’s behavior, funding from the federal government, and a lot of intuition, utilize a trial and error approach to breeding and reintroducing them to their native sage brush habitat in central Washington. 

In order to determine if any rabbits released have successfully survived in the wild, Jon Gallie and Shea Gibbs of WDFW invited a crew of about 30 Nature Conservancy volunteers to traverse the land near the release sites and look for signs of pygmy rabbits: burrow holes and scat. Volunteers split into groups of 4, with each group led by a member of WDFW’s staff armed with a GPS unit and collection tools. Each volunteer covered about 7 miles each day, traversing back and forth, and up and down hills, throughout sage brush.

While searching for signs of Pygmy Rabbits I was struck at how familiar I became with signs of other desert species – badger and coyote dens, snake holes, mouse holes, cottontail rabbit scat, prints and scat from deer, coyotes, and the feral horses that were grazing in the area. Upon first site a badger den filled me with excitement. After the 5th or 6th one I became jaded. Throughout two days of hiking and covering sage brush land that could once have been home to dozens of Pygmy Rabbits, with all of the volunteers intently searching on those two days, only one burrow with fresh scat was located.  So this is what it feels like to look for an endangered species - searching and searching, and not finding what you’re looking for. We collected valuable data that the biologists will use to improve their strategy, but we were disappointed that we did not find more signs of pygmy rabbits. Two days of hiking for nearly 6 hours straight and the absence of signs of Pygmy Rabbits was felt in our collective psyches. The lack of discoveries does not mean that Pygmy Rabbit recovery is hopeless. Aside from the literal silver lining (partial cloud cover on both days cooled us down and made the typically unbearable eastern Washington heat a non-issue) the one burrow that we did find gives the project managers something to be excited about. Previous surveys of the area revealed no burrows at all. Samples of the scat were collected that will be sent to the lab at the Oregon Zoo, where DNA from all captive-bred rabbits is kept on record, and we will learn when the rabbit that left the evidence was released, how long it has survived in the wild, and if we’re really lucky we will find out that it has DNA that has not yet been recorded - which would indicate that it was wild born.

The biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are doing amazing work, and are highly dedicated to their task of bringing this species back to healthy population numbers. I believe they are up to the challenge, and I hope that we can continue to improve our land management and conservation practices, so that other species are not pushed this far in the future.


July Volunteer Spotlight: Donna LaCasse

For our July volunteer spotlight, we are featuring a volunteer with a unique story who Has reliably been coming to events all over the state, traveling and camping with her feline companion, and is also a Master Hunter and Master Birder.

Donna LaCasse has been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy since 2014 when her husband passed away suddenly, and she decided to throw herself into service as a way to work through her grief. Since then she’s been highly involved with The Nature Conservancy and many other environmental organizations, and is willing to take trips halfway across the state to help out on our preserves.

The Nature Conservancy: What is your volunteer role?  How long have you been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?  Do you volunteer anywhere else?

Donna LaCasse: I volunteer at Port Susan Bay and other Conservancy preserves throughout the state, traveling with my cat Stonewall Jackson. I volunteer at Puget Sound Bird Survey, Coastal Survey, USGS breeding bird survey, Vaux swift migration counts, and with the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

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

Donna LaCasse: I was born in WA but have lived in other states.

TNC: Anything about your career or schooling you would like to share?

Donna: Currently retired, college grad and worked in hospital labs in chemistry during my career. 

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

Donna: Been a volunteer throughout my children’s school years...then after my hubby’s sudden death started working more closely with the various groups associated with Audubon and the environment.

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

Donna: What gives me hope for the future is education of children and adults on the situation of our planet.

TNC: What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?

Donna: I am avid hiker and gardener and have completed entire PCT, but in many hikes.

TNC: How does volunteering make you feel?

Donna: Volunteering makes me feel like everyone can make a difference if they give of themselves and their time...and hopefully I am making a small difference.

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

Donna: I love helping with pygmy rabbits and this year with the Broads on sage grouse habitat problems.

TNC: Who is your environmental hero?

Rachel Carson--Silent Spring-- hero. (We agree Donna!) 

Pickleweed in a Pickle at Dabob Bay

Written by Joelene Boyd, Stewardship Coordinator, Puget Sound Program
Photographed by Milo Zorzino, Volunteer Photographer

While visiting the Dabob Bay conservation easement this past month I noticed something I had never seen before. At first I mistook it for a plastic oyster bag that was degrading, then I noticed more and more patches along the spit and it was only present in the pickleweed (Salicornia). Pickleweed is a native saltmarsh succulent plant that can withstand and grow in high salinity conditions.

Pickleweed (Salicornia) at Dabob Bay © Joelene Boyd

A volunteer and I decided to take a break from easement monitoring photos and get a closer look. “It looks like silly string,” we said to each other. Upon further inspection and some prodding we discovered that it was plant-like and when breaking it apart it felt like we were snapping tiny roots. One of the volunteers in our group knew exactly what it was – dodder. Its unimpressive name sells this parasitic plant short of its tenacity and impact. Dodder is a leafless and rootless filamentous plant that gets nutrients and water from host plants (in this case pickleweed) by wrapping itself and becoming intertwined to the host plant. Morning glory is a close relative of dodder which gives an indication of how persistent it can be. Once we realized what it was we noticed there were discrete patches of dodder along the eastern side of the spit. Since dodder is a native to this type of environment there is no plan to control it but it does raise a good and age old question, especially if you are a pickleweed at Dabob Bay – when is a weed a weed?  

Besides discovering a cool new plant at the Long Spit easement in Dabob Bay 8 volunteers along with Melissa Watkinson and Kara Cardinal helped out to remove Scotch broom and pick up garbage along the spit. After we finished representatives from Rock Point Oyster gave us a tour of their oyster production facility. 


June Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Bernstein

For our June Volunteer spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to a volunteer who’s seen all of our preserves… but hasn’t necessarily visited all of them in person! Susan Bernstein has been volunteering every Tuesday with our Marketing team on photo management for over a year. 

Read below to learn more about how she supports our visual story-telling and why she volunteers!

The Nature Conservancy:  What is your volunteer role?  Do you volunteer anywhere else?

Susan Bernstein: For over a year now I’ve been helping to move the Washington chapter’s image archive to a cloud-based service (the Photo Vault). The goal is to make a curated collection of interesting and useful photos, mostly taken for The Conservancy by professional and volunteer photographers, available to and easily searchable by staff.

Over the years I’ve volunteered with other Nature Conservancy groups, including Eastern Conservation Science and the Global Marine Team.

TNC: Where are you from?  How long have you been living in Seattle?

SB: I’m from Montreal, and have dual Canadian and American citizenship. My husband and I moved to Seattle from the Boston area in 2005 in order to live in the west, where we had always loved to travel. What a great move!

TNC: Anything about your career or schooling you would like to share?

SB: For many years I enjoyed a stimulating career with one of the Internet’s originators in Cambridge, Massachusetts, doing programming, product development, and consulting in network and educational technologies. My undergraduate days were spent at McGill University, graduate years at Columbia. I began my professional life as an educational research psychologist.

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

SB: Originally, I was seduced by the beautiful ecoregional maps made by the science team back east, and volunteered to help. At the time I was really interested in land conservation. As I learned more about biodiversity, freshwater, and oceans, I continued to find ways to work with The Conservancy. Here in Seattle, being able to focus on Washington State interests me.

TNC:  What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?

SB: My husband and I like to take road trips. When we moved here, we decided that we’d visit every one of Washington’s 39 counties, which I think we’ve finally accomplished. We hike, discover geological features, visit wineries and power generators and university campuses, learn a lot, have fun.

TNC: How does volunteering make you feel?

SB: Useful. I really appreciate opportunities to use and extend my skills and knowledge to support conservation. Interacting with folks in the Seattle office is stimulating, as is learning more about Conservancy projects in Washington.

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

SB: I’m not sure I could pick a favorite. Ramsey Canyon Preserve in southern Arizona is a treasure. Closer to home, I love hiking the Bluff Trail at Ebey’s Landing in any season.


Talkin’ Conservation Communication

Written and Photographed by Nick Altadonna, Eastern WA Stewardship Coord.

It probably comes as no surprise that most land stewards are not the gregarious type.  Few of us dreamt of “fighting the good fight” via WebEx calls, stakeholder meetings, or social media, in spite of the benefits to our cause. Winning friends and influencing people to support the mission, is not usually our natural inclination…restoration planning, protecting preserve resources, ecological monitoring, and soaking in wild places seem to make a lot more sense.

As a firm believer that nature conservation is intrinsically intertwined with the needs of people, and suffering a steward’s disposition, I often feel hamstrung upon the social stage in which so much of The Nature Conservancy’s work takes place. Embracing my inner extrovert to champion our work is tough, but thankfully I have an opportunity through our volunteer program.

The personal power of the volunteer program, is that I can engage and be engaged by the public in a setting and a style that’s my own. Out on our preserves, communicating about conservation is easy, naturally inspired, and not subject to deadlines. Through volunteer stewardship, you not only meet a person’s need to tangibly affect nature conservation, but also to share the story behind that ethic.  Take the time to listen to their story, and it’s often reciprocated in kind.  It is at this intersection that I found Volunteer Steward Paulette Murphy, out in Lind Coulee.  

Paulette grew up in a rural setting outside the Tri-Cities and in a past life was a NOAA climate scientist, one of a collection of amazing threads from her tale I am still unraveling. Now a resident of greater Seattle, her ethic is nourished in the fantastic geology of the Columbia Plateau, working with her hands, and rediscovering the nature of eastern Washington. Given her interests, our conversation “magically snowballed” into TNC’s work on the “sunny side” of the state, and as the dust settled on our fence retirement at Lind, we concocted a plan to get her in on the action. Two weeks later, she accepted my proposal to serve as a Volunteer Steward, co-leading monitoring of our Moxee Bog & Yakima River Canyon preserves.

Now that’s my kind of talk.


May Volunteer Spotlight: Hannah Letinich

The month of May is a time when trees are leafing out, flowers are blossoming, and birds are migrating north – a great time to be a photographer in Washington State, so it is fitting that we are highlighting our lead volunteer photographer, Hannah Letinich, for our May volunteer spotlight!

Hannah has been volunteering with TNC a little over a year and just recently went from volunteer photographer to lead volunteer photographer. She coordinates and bottom-lines assignments with fellow volunteer photographers and videographers, ensures staff photography needs are being met, and provides guidance and direction on assignments in addition to photographing special events, volunteer work parties and other fun projects.

Aside from volunteering with The Nature Conservancy, Hannah has been involved in photography most of her life and studies multi media production at The Evergreen State College with a focus on Sustainability and Justice. Through her volunteer work with TNC she has been growing as a wildlife and documentary photographer.

Learn more about Hannah in her interview below, and check out some of the assignments she’s worked on for us.

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

Hannah Letinich: I am inspired by the success of TNC, the people I encounter and photograph who are creating change and awareness in order to preserve the amazing places on the planet.

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

Hannah: I see hope in the younger generations, they are learning how to be more respectful of nature and are more aware of their impact.

TNC: What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?

Hannah: When I'm not photographing I'm communications manager at Mountain to Sound Outfitters and my favorite past time is paddling my 18 foot wooden canoe with my Fiancé Todd.

TNC: What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?

Hannah: I have no idea, but let's make it great!

TNC: Who is your environmental hero?

Hannah: My Dad Rob Letinich, he lived on a wooden sailboat, ate and shopped local, was conscious of his impact on the Earth and helped others see the benefit in being sustainable.

TNC: Is there anything you would like to see The Nature Conservancy doing that we are not already doing?

Hannah: I am very excited about the volunteer photography program in Washington, I hope it grows moving forward to help build imagery that will help promote the preservation of Washington's wild places!    

Earth Day Volunteer Celebration & Open House

Photographed by Anna Snook, Volunteer Photographer

We celebrated our new office & our volunteers in honor of Earth Day!  Volunteers helped around the office and checked out our new space, learned more about our work, met staff and other volunteers who make our conservation goals a reality. 

Volunteers got to hear short presentations by staff members doing exciting conservation work, and lots of tasty food and beverages with great company! See the photos in the slideshow above!

Learn How you Can Volunteer!

Hunters Become Stewards at Beezley Hills

Written & Photographed by Anna Snook, Northwest Photographer

Everyone who loves the outdoors interacts with it in different ways. Some of us go out to shoot with cameras; some of us, to shoot with rifles. Some shoot wildflowers and landscapes, some shoot animals, and some shoot glass bottles. All these activities intersect on the Beezley Hills preserve in Eastern Washington. By day, Beezley Hills is an expansive steppe; the sprawling sagebrush reaching to the sky in all directions, dry ground under foot. In the spring, it’s home to dozens of wildflower species – balsamroots bowing their golden heads in the breeze, sprinkled with the purple of phlox and shooting star, followed by lupine and camas. In the fall, home to a hunting tradition that precedes the preserve’s TNC days.

Several times a year, local hunters are provided the opportunity to learn more about the preserve, and the chance to take care of it – in exchange, they get hunting rights on the land. When we’ve seen what kind of conflict can arise from “othering” in states like Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, a project like The Nature Conservancy’s Hunter Steward program is heartening. It shows us that there are environmentalists, and there are hunters, and there are both. Conservation is as simple as that: people who love the land take care of it, no matter how they use it.

So, on a warm sunny Saturday in April, you might find a few of these dedicated stewards, bags in hand, picking up everything from broken glass bottles and beer cans, to burn piles and even car frames. Hopping out of their pickup in between clean-up sites every time they see a bit of roadside litter. Finding hidden treasures among the trash – a marble, a usable car part, a coin. Every once in a while, standing up to take in the never-ending sky, or the mountains, or the perfume of sagebrush. It’s all in a day’s work on the Beezley Hills preserve. 

Anna Snook is a Northwest photographer, see more of her work

Learn more about our work at Moses Coulee and Beezley Hills

Learn how you can volunteer too!

April Volunteer Spotlight: Susie Saalwaechter

In celebration of Earth Month, we’d like to highlight the work of one of our most loyal volunteers, who we are proud to say is being honored by Governor Jay Inslee with the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award in the category of “environment” on April 11th.  Check out our interview with Susie below, and we invite you to join us at Safeco Stadium on April 11th, for the Mariner’s Salute to Volunteers where Susie will be acknowledged along with other outstanding volunteers in the community.

Thank you for all of your hard work Susie! 

TNC: What is your volunteer role?

Susie Saalwaechter: I am a Conservation Ambassador Team Leader.  I am responsible for planning, coordinating, supplying, and recruiting volunteers for 20-25 community outreach events each year.

TNC: How long have you been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?

Susie: It’s three years now.

TNC: Do you volunteer anywhere else?

Susie: Yes.  I am also Co-President of the Newport Band Parents Association, which is a booster club for the band program at Newport High School In Bellevue, Washington.  Our son attends Newport, and is in the band.

TNC: Where are you from?

Susie: I was originally born in Japan, then moved to the US when I was very young.  My family settled in the Chicago area.  I’ve lived in the Midwest, the East Coast, and now the West Coast.  We’ve been in Seattle for 8 years.

TNC: Anything about your career or schooling you would like to share?

Susie: I am trained as an aerospace engineer, and worked on Air Force and Army programs during my first career.

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

Susie: I was looking for a non-profit where I could help protect nature.

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

Susie: Many people do say that the future can be bleak, based on the immensity and scope of environmental problems.  And there are good reasons to feel that way.  Yet I am very hopeful and optimistic because there are so many ordinary people, organizations, and companies that are doing their part to help the environment.  There is a tremendous amount of grass roots effort that is underway for the benefit of nature.  Its extraordinary how people all over the world, not just in Seattle or Washington, but people all over the world are making changes, big and small, to the way they live.  They have actively chosen to live differently because of our impact on the Earth.  The rapid growth in clean energy, the huge popularity of electric cars, the sheer numbers of people who recycle; these are significant changes.  The media don’t report on this, and when they do, it’s not the top story.  But quietly and below the radar, people everywhere are slowly making the change to a greener economy.  In addition, companies worldwide announce they are adopting some kind of green policy every day.  So yes, the bad news is climate change is here, but the good news is people everywhere are starting to embrace green solutions.  The Nature Conservancy, like other similar non-profits, is contributing to those solutions.

TNC: What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?

Susie: Enjoying nature, of course.  Usually in the form of travel.

TNC: How does volunteering make you feel?

Susie: It’s like getting paid to do your hobby!  Except you don’t get paid.  It truly is like doing your favorite hobby.  If you volunteer for something you really enjoy and believe in, it’s incredibly fun.  I do have a passion for a healthy planet.  That passion usually starts locally with a desire to protect places that you love, but then you quickly realize that protection is a regional, national, and global objective because it’s all connected.  And guess what?  TNC is about protection.

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

Susie: The pygmy rabbit restoration project is amazing.  Who doesn’t love rabbits that fit in the palm of your hand?  How cool is that?  I really enjoyed it.  Outreach is also very rewarding.  You get to meet all kinds of people who care about nature.  Plus we get to be outdoors!

TNC: What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?

Susie: I think we are in the midst of exponential change worldwide.  When I think about what life was like 50 years ago, and how it compares to today, it will be just as different 50 years into the future.  I would like to see far more versatile public transportation that encourages greater use over single-passenger car travel that dominates today’s transportation mode.

TNC: Who is your environmental hero?

Susie: There are many but my top three are John Muir, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Elon Musk.

TNC: What is your spirit animal and why?

Susie: I took one of those tests, and it came up with an owl.  It said that it can see beyond illusion.  However I was also born in the year of the Tiger, so there you go.

TNC: Have you ever convinced someone to do something they didn't want to do?

Susie: No, not that I know of anyway!

TNC: Is there anything you would like to see The Nature Conservancy doing that we are not already doing?

Susie: I would like to see the Washington chapter play a more prominent role in combating water pollution in Puget Sound.  I read in a recent Seattle Times story that juvenile salmon in the Pacific Northwest have been found with high levels of drugs, medications, and personal care products in their tissues, among the highest in the nation.  Read more.