Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Community Highlight - Coby LaFayette-Kelleher

Responses by Coby LaFayette-Kelleher, Pepperwood Steward
Coby banding Swainson’s Hawks in Butte County

1.  How long have you been a Steward, Tracker or Volunteer with Pepperwood?
I have been a volunteer at Pepperwood for about two years now. I have been steward “tracked” for the last year.

2.  Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in Pepperwood.  
Pepperwood has been on my radar for years, lots of years. As a graduate of both SRJC and SSU, I’d heard about Michael—this mythical creature living this cool life alone in the wilds of Pepperwood (that’s the story I told myself, anyway). And, it seemed like every time there was an opportunity to visit, I was otherwise engaged.

I finally got here, though, when Ben’s wife brought her class up here for a Native American lecture. I was in that class. Ben did a stellar job talking about Pepperwood. I was hooked. I went home, made a donation, got an email from Lisa…and the rest is outlined in question 3!

What keeps you motivated?
Seriously? If you have been here, you would know the answer to that question. Pepperwood is a wonderland of wildlife and wild lands, and it is stunning. It makes your spirit soar (I stole that line from a movie called “The Dish”), but it describes how I feel about this place.

3.  What projects have you worked on?
Lisa initially pulled me into the heart of the Pepperwood Community by inviting me to join the Board’s Development Sub-Committee.  Despite my background in non-profit fundraising & event planning, I felt very much out of my league on the Board. These folks are heavy hitters, professionally and philanthropically (is that a word?).  This little fish needed a smaller pond…

Photo from the Pepperwood WPI project.
So, Lisa gave me a couple of other field-related suggestions for service and one stuck. That one would be the Wildlife Photo Index Project or WPI. Since then, and much to Celeste’s chagrin, I have become a one-project girl. I have been working on the WPI Project for about a year and a half. To say that I love it would, to those who know what IT is, seems nuts. I essentially sit in front of a computer for 3-4 hours a week, meticulously going through photographic data. Sometimes that means looking at 6000 (yes, 6000) images of cow parts or waving grass. Occasionally, I get lucky and get to see some truly remarkable images of the preserve’s wildlife inhabitants. It is very rewarding and addictive. Since I am an addictive personality, it is just the kind of fix I need to keep going.

4.  What are three words that describe Pepperwood to you?
Heaven. On. Earth.
Coby on a bicycle tour of Versailles

5.  What does your experience at Pepperwood mean to you?
Being part of Pepperwood gives me an opportunity to contribute literally and financially to an organization that IS making a difference. And that means that what I am doing, as part of that equation, is both meaningful and lasting. We all want to feel that some part of us will live on when we pass. I believe the efforts I make on behalf of this project will provide the baseline data needed for sound preserve management. So, I feel good about the time I spend working on WPI. The data we collect and I analyze will ultimately be used for conservation planning and wildlife corridor enhancement, among other things. That makes me very happy.

At Pepperwood, I also get to channel my inner scientist, so that long, lost, hard-won biology degree has gotten dusted off. It is just plain fun and keeps me off the street. The people are truly some of the finest human beings I’ve met. It is an honor and privilege to work with them. Every time I drive up the hill to the Dwight Center, I feel blessed to be able to be here.

6.  What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned or seen at Pepperwood?
Honestly? What was so pleasantly surprising to me was that there are still places where wildlife thrives; all kinds of wildlife. When I discovered this through WPI image processing, I felt like there just might be hope for the planet. I actually exhaled a deep sigh of relief! I might even have shed a tear. It was that profound an experience.

Coby prepping for her family’s cranberry harvest
7.  What’s the one thing you’d want to share with someone who is thinking about volunteering?
What are you waiting for?

8.  What do you like to do in your spare time?
What’s that? 

 Interested in volunteering? Check our website for info on monthly Volunteer Workdays or send us an email.

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