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Volunteer Heroes: Shirley Stark Q&A

For many, the calling to conservation has been sparked by a sense of the joy and wonder about the world that was ignited in their childhood. For others, the calling is about leaving a better world for the next generation.

Whatever the motivation, our world needs stories like these more than ever.

The profiles and Q&As in this section represent The Nature Conservancy volunteers who make our work possible in Pennsylvania. We hope you’ll be inspired by these stories.

“Once natural areas are gone, there is no turning back. Animals, plants, and organisms lose their habitat, humans lose their connection with nature, and the ecosystem loses vital links.”

— Shirley Stark

What sparked your interest in conservation?

Shirley Stark:

Exposure to the wonders of nature while hiking and camping, and a strong connection with my dog sparked my interest. Through The Nature Conservancy, I also was introduced to Aldo Leopold’s famous quote, “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the pieces.” That led me to read Aldo’s story about watching life leave a wolf’s eyes. If you’ve ever read the story, I need say no more.

What are some of the conservation issues that worry you?

Shirley Stark:

Habitat preservation, suburban sprawl, traditional landscaping rather than eco/conservation landscaping, lack of wildlife/conservation corridors, water quality, invasive plants, lack of ecosystem diversity, overuse of pesticides and chemicals, light pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, over-packaging. The list goes on and on …

What is your favorite Nature Conservancy site in Pennsylvania?

Shirley Stark:

The lack of noise, hiking trails and proximity of the Vernal Pools Preserve at Kings Gap make it a favorite. The trails connect to Kings Gap State Park, which has a tremendous view of the valley.

Outside of Pennsylvania?

Shirley Stark:

I enjoy the Crown of the Continent area in Montana. It is really wild; you can see grizzlies, mountain goats, and wolverines in their native habitats, and experience some of the most remote, quiet, and beautiful areas in the country.

There are so many organizations in need of volunteers, why did you choose The Nature Conservancy?

Shirley Stark:

Because it is such an important cause. Once natural areas are gone, there is no turning back. Animals, plants, and organisms lose their habitat, humans lose their connection with nature, and the ecosystem loses vital links. I have a special place in my heart for The Nature Conservancy because it introduced me to Aldo Leopold, which is why I’m a conservationist. The Nature Conservancy has a mission that saves the pieces!

What is the most memorable project that you have been involved with as a volunteer for The Nature Conservancy? How has it shaped your image about conservation?

Shirley Stark:

Helping with the vernal pool hikes at Kings Gap. It opened my eyes to another little-appreciated habitat that harbors countless plants and creatures that need to be protected. In addition to so many well-known areas that need protection, who knows how many other little-known areas like vernal ponds need our help? The Nature Conservancy needs more funds, staff and volunteers.

What motivates you to keep volunteering for The Nature Conservancy?

Shirley Stark:

I am motivated by the urgency to protect important habitats and educate the public so that more people realize how crucial these areas are to our planet’s survival. I also love learning from The Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers, and meeting people who share my love for nature.

Thank you to volunteer Mark Marotta for interviewing our Pennsylvania volunteers about their service to the chapter. Mark is a freelance writer and volunteer for The Nature Conservancy residing in Montgomery County. Views shared here by volunteers may not be the views of The Nature Conservancy.

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