Monday, June 8, 2015

Community Highlight - Wendy Herniman

Responses by Wendy Herniman, Pepperwood Steward

Wendy (right) helping with the initial planting of
the Demonstration Garden.
How long have you been a Steward, Tracker, or Volunteer with Pepperwood?
I started volunteering about four years ago and then became a steward last summer, after going through the Bio-85 program at SRJC and becoming a California Naturalist.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in Pepperwood. What keeps you motivated?
I grew up in the New Forest in England, so my backyard as a child was an ancient 1000-year old forest where the local ponies and donkeys had free rein to wander wherever they liked. There wasn't a lot else to do other than spend time in the woods, heathland and streams, so I became very comfortable outdoors and a love of nature and a desire to take care of the environment grew from that. As a teenager I became a member of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and spent my summers restoring wetland habitats and scrub-bashing (removing invasive species) near Stonehenge. I then went to college and majored in biology, but meandered into healthcare rather than my favoured field of ecology. A few years have passed since then, bringing me to Sonoma County. Luckily, I discovered Pepperwood in 2011 when I brought my son, Peter, up here for a field trip for a summer SRJC class; as soon as I arrived, I decided that I needed to spend as much time as I could at the preserve. Every time I drive through the Pepperwood gate, I'm reminded of why I made that decision. 

One of the oaks Wendy monitors as part of the
Phenology Project. (Photo by Wendy Herniman)

What projects have you worked on?
I enjoy helping with the community events like the lectures, classes, hikes, gallery exhibits and the wildflower festivals. The volunteer workdays have given me the opportunity to help with the creation of the demonstration garden and the gathering ground. I've also been involved with the Phenology Project for almost two years now, where a group of stewards and trackers monitors plants twice weekly to see which life cycle stages they are exhibiting, such as leafing out, flowering, producing seeds, etc. My favorite part of the Phenology Project has been the group of oaks which I have been monitoring for the last year. I have learnt so much about these plants, and oaks in particular, through doing this project. I've also helped with the fieldwork for other climate change projects like the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3)'s 50 woodland plots, some of which are located in the less-visited parts of the preserve, giving me a great opportunity to explore Pepperwood in more depth.

What are three words that describe Pepperwood to you?
Biodiversity, community, balance.

What does your experience at Pepperwood mean to you?
Being surrounded by the gorgeous Northern California landscape, with the grasslands, oak woodlands, and the redwoods, puts everything in perspective for me and brings balance to my life. Additionally, I really appreciate the community which the preserve attracts, the staff, the scientists, volunteers, and visitors, who all seem to value the landscape and care about protecting the environment. It's been especially rewarding that my sons have found a good niche here, too, with Sam spending a wonderful summer here as an intern and going on to study ecology, and Peter thoroughly enjoying the first TeenNat program.

Wendy in the field at a Volunteer Workday.
What’s the most surprising thing you've learned or seen at Pepperwood?
I was surprised to discover that I was brave enough to hold a snake during a Bio-85 reptiles and amphibians class. It was only a little gopher snake, but that was pretty amazing. One of the most beautiful things I've seen was a huge King Snake stretched out across the trail.

What’s the one thing you’d want to share with someone who is thinking about volunteering?
There's something for everyone here, whether they want to enjoy the outdoors, work on a computer or at public events, take part in science projects, learn more about plants or animals, tend a garden, pull out invasive plants or even love to cook, and the community is so welcoming.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to spend time with family and friends, as well as enjoying all that Sonoma County has to offer, such as hiking, art, local good food and wine, and traveling further afield to Yosemite and the UK when I get the chance.

 --- Interested in volunteering? Check our website for more information.

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