Humans of Nature
Meet some of our amazing volunteers.
Volunteering for an organization like The Nature Conservancy isn’t limited to the strongest of individuals building trails and clearing invasive plants. Those who dedicate their time are just like you—they come in all shapes and sizes and from many walks of life. They use their talents in a variety of ways—both in the field and in the office—to help us achieve our mission. Here are just a few of the faces that volunteer for nature here in the Granite State.
Day Job: Director of Institutional Advancement for Antioch University, Eastern Region.
Interests: Hiking, singing in a wonderful chorus, woodworking (I make Shaker oval boxes and furniture), quilting, swimming, biking, traveling (particularly to the ocean), learning about different cultures from the international students I’ve worked with over the years, spending time with family and friends, and cooking all types of food.
Volunteering since: 2008
How I donate my time/talent: With The Nature Conservancy, I love keeping the trails clear while trying to interpret the landscape and telling other people about Warwick Preserve in Westmoreland, where I volunteer the most. I also enjoy volunteering with the Community Kitchen with a group from Antioch University, and served on the leadership of the Brattleboro Concert Choir.
Why I volunteer: The natural world is very important as a community resource and taking care of a preserve helps keep that resource vibrant. It is a wonderful way to give back and to show gratitude for the place, as well. As a place to exercise, contemplate and be alone, Warwick Preserve has been a really important part of my life over the years. I love to show it off to others, as well. I’ve enjoyed meeting the different TNC employees who come out and learning why they’ve come into the job. GREAT people.
How I make a difference: I enjoy connecting people—with each other, with someone who is also interested in what they are passionate about, or an experience that they may enjoy. I am excited to be just one of many who, if we each try to make an impact in the world, all of our energy put together is bound to create something special.
To those thinking of volunteering: Do it. The TNC staff are wonderful, and every single moment spent in the preserve has enriched my life. It is a great way to get involved, and even if you are busy, you can make the time for this.
Day Job: Ph.D. student at the University of New Hampshire.
Interests: Surfing, running, fungal forays, writing about ecology, LGBTQ+ culture.
Volunteering Since: 2013
How I donate my time/talent: I primarily volunteer with the Garlic Mustard Pull Challenges, strapping on my boots and gloves to help restore the Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket. As an avid trail-runner, I immediately found the Sweet Trail when I moved to Newmarket to start my Ph.D. One of the most meaningful connections I can make when volunteering is to bridge what I learn about conservation ecology from controlled experiments with what I see happening in the field with other volunteers as we work together to keep our local ecosystems healthy.
Why I volunteer: It may sound cheesy, but I volunteer because it feels good. There are few things we get to do that feel altruistic, and this type of work is all about the welfare of others, including non-human others. I volunteer because humans have transformed nearly every ecosystem on Earth, and we have the capacity to help make those changes less noticeable by practicing conservation.
How I make a difference: I mostly make a difference through education and social justice and often making unconventional connections between environmentalism and social justice. In addition to my work volunteering with conservation organizations, I also lead student efforts centered upon LGBTQA+ justice.
To those thinking of volunteering: Just give it a try! The people who come to these events are extremely diverse, with many volunteering for the first time and some the 50th. If you’re nervous about not knowing much about the outdoors, or if you fear ticks, poison ivy or other wildlife, or even if you’re a big introvert, try to not let that deter you because there is no judgment, you never have to do or go anywhere you feel uncomfortable, and you can work mostly by yourself or as part of the larger group.
Day Job: I’m retired.
Interests: I’m a serious watercolor painter; a grandfather to four grandkids in Concord and Portland, Oregon; I’m reading all of the Pulitzer Prize winning books, both fiction and nonfiction. My interests center on hobbies and grandkids, but also include my charitable involvement with The Nature Conservancy and MacDowell Colony.
Volunteering since: 2007
How I donate my time/talent: I’ve been involved with the [New Hampshire] Chapter for 11 years. During this time, I served as board chair and continue to co-chair our ongoing Future of Nature Campaign. It has been a very rewarding experience to volunteer for an organization devoted to preserving the environment. Part of the joy has been working with an exceptional staff and a very committed board, anxious to advance the science, projects and financial support in New Hampshire. Really, the chapter gives back more in return to the volunteer than any other nonprofit I have had the privilege to serve.
Day Job: Junior at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
Interests: Hiking, kayaking, biking, reading.
Volunteering since: June 2018 with The Nature Conservancy, but I was a member of a volunteering club called Interact in high school and I've volunteered on and off in college.
How I donate my time/talent: As an Easement Monitoring Volunteer Intern, I help monitor the Conservancy’s conservation easements to ensure the terms of the agreements are being met.
Why I volunteer: To gain experience in a field that I'm interested in and to learn more about the work that TNC accomplishes. I'm considering adding Environmental Studies as a second major (I've already declared in English) and I'm hoping this experience will help me figure out a career to pursue after I graduate.
How I make a difference: In a broad sense, I'm helping to ensure the lands that TNC is protecting continue to be used for their intended purposes.
To those thinking of volunteering: Don't be afraid to reach out and start a conversation! The staff here are incredibly kind and, if you don't ask, you never know what opportunities might exist.
Leonard “Len” Martin
Day Job: Happily retired for eight years from the Information Services field.
Interests: My primary interests are playing outdoors: alpine and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter; hiking and wandering about the woods throughout the summer.
Volunteering since: I have been doing volunteer work since 2008, as I anticipated how I would give back upon my retirement. The Nature Conservancy and other environmental organizations have been a perfect fit with my interests in being one with nature in the great outdoors.
How I donate my time/talent: Among the various tasks I do as a volunteer are building and maintaining trails, bog bridges, water bard, culverts, clear-cutting to open viewing areas, picking up litter, hauling trash, deconstructing buildings, monitoring preserves and easement properties. Additionally, I help to clear invasive plants, assist with spring spruce-up projects, and have been known to chair an information booth or two at public functions.
How I make a difference: I try to make a difference by actively supporting environmental youth programs (our future environmental leaders), outreach programs in schools, disadvantaged youth outdoor scholarship programs, and The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program, which brings high school students with an interest in environmental studies from urban areas to New Hampshire (and other states) for a month each summer to work at our preserves. I am also a member of the Conservancy’s Legacy Club, having included the New Hampshire Chapter in my estate plans so that I may continue to support the organization after I pass.
To those thinking of volunteering: I offer these words: Find your passion and follow it with your heart.
Day Job: I have been happily retired for four years from a career as a social worker. My last job of 35 years was as a legal guardian for mentally disabled persons—very fulfilling work.
How I donate my time/talent: At The Nature Conservancy, I’ve served as a preserve monitor, trail builder, weed puller and, most recently, as an in-house assistant digitizing paper files for the office. In addition, I’ve volunteered for my church, New Hampshire Audubon’s day camps and fundraisers, worked to get Concord’s newest preserve and trail system at Broken Ground established, served on the city’s Trails Committee, and taught citizenship lessons to refugees so they might pass their citizenship test. Currently, I’m teaching English to a Syrian refugee family and assisting them in other ways.
Why I volunteer: From childhood, my parents set an example of giving time and self to people and causes they supported. “Spare time” for my mother was for church committees, Sunday School teaching, and visiting elderly neighbors. For my father it was teaching gun safety classes, planting trees in the state forest, and serving as secretary and treasurer for his Outdoor Club. Thus, volunteering is in my blood.
To those thinking of volunteering: There is great satisfaction in the sense of being needed and being able to make a difference for people and the environment. In addition, being involved in these efforts has brought me into contact with some wonderful people—some like myself, some with much to teach me, and some from fascinating other cultures. Learning never ends, and volunteering in a variety of ways proves that to me. I highly recommend it!
Leonard “Lee” Sarapas
Day Job: Recently retired, I’m following an environmental, safety and sustainability career in the private sector, including both consulting and manufacturing.
Interests: I love being outside and making a meaningful difference in our world. Anytime the two are combined, that is even better.
Volunteering since: I have been volunteering with other groups since high school in the 70s; just a new-comer with TNC starting in 2017.
How I donate my time/talent: I have had TNC direct my efforts so that I can work on things with the greatest need. That has worked well and has involved me in a lot of different things, from doing trail work, removing invasive species, planting native trees and grasses, preserve monitoring, and public outreach. And not to forget, TNC helped me get certified as a wildland firefighter to work on controlled burns, which is a remarkable experience. That last one was something I never expected.
Why I volunteer: I think the earth needs advocates to sustain and improve its health; without a voice it is hard to make progress. And I enjoy making a meaningful difference, leaving something better than before. Being a TNC volunteer allows for both.
How I make a difference: To be fair, I leave that to others to decide!
To those thinking of volunteering: In three words, just do it. Find something that's important to you, that brings meaning to your life, and then connect with the people that will allow you to work on that.
Volunteering since: Nature Groupie started as a collaborative project between the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and The Stewardship Network (TSN) in the Great Lakes. It launched as “The Stewardship Network: New England” in 2013 before becoming Nature Groupie in 2018.
Mission: Nature Groupie empowers generations of outdoor enthusiasts to volunteer for nature in New England, because they know what a network of nature lovers can do to change the world.
How they donate their time/talent: Nature Groupie connects those wanting to volunteer with the nature organizations that need their help. They assist in promotion of events, recruitment and management of volunteers, provide tools, technical assistance, citizen science opportunities, and more.
How they make a difference: Often, there is interest in volunteering, but folks don’t know where to begin. Nature Groupie empowers generations of outdoor enthusiasts to volunteer for nature by providing a powerful, comprehensive, central location for those interested in citizen science, stewardship and conservation to find opportunities throughout New England. They also enable organizations like The Nature Conservancy to leverage the collective impact of those looking to lend a hand for nature.
To those thinking about volunteering: Check out tons of opportunities at www.naturegroupie.org!