Two Schuylkill County women are among this year’s honorees in the seventh annual Celebrating Women in Conservation Awards.
Hannah Burke, a Blue Mountain High School senior, received the Young Woman of Conservation Leadership award ,and Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, received the Woman of Lifetime Achievement in Conservation award.
Since 2015, PennFuture has honored the accomplishments of outstanding women conservationists in Pennsylvania. The awards are designed to recognize excellence in conservation and to forge a stronger network of women who are deeply committed to working to protect Pennsylvania’s environment.
This year’s awards recognize women in northeastern Pennsylvania and are presented by NextEra Energy Resources. Women living and/or working in Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties were eligibility to be nominated this year.
This year’s virtual/live online event is Sept. 9.
Young Woman of Conservation Leadership award
The Young Woman of Conservation Leadership award is presented to an upcoming leader in the conservation movement. The honoree’s environmental stewardship efforts shine through her work and studies in the environment field, and because of young leaders like the honoree there is a bright future for continuing conservation work in Pennsylvania.
Burke, 18, of Orwigsburg, found out she was nominated and chosen as this year’s honoree in an email.
“This is awesome,” she said of her reaction to finding out about the award. “It was a big surprise.”
Burke is the vice president of the Schuylkill County 4-H teen council, Schuylkill Haven community garden manager, and the CEO of Best Buds All Natural Gardening Company, a conservation business she founded in 2017. She is also a founding member of Co-Victory Gardens campaign and studies soils in Envirothon.
Her interest in natural gardening began after learning of the possible harmful effects of glyphosate, an ingredient found in some herbicides.
“That’s why I started gardening,” she said. “Then I got into soil and Envirothon. I got more into the environment and the outdoors. One door leads to the next and then the next. One door opens multiple doors.”
Burke founded Best Buds in 2017. The idea started when the harvesting of her family garden resulted in too much food for just her family.
“I thought, ‘oh my gosh, this is way too much food for our whole family’,” she said. “So I went around and sold some of the food to our neighbors.”
One of her neighbors turned customer introduced Burke to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Schuylkill County. Through the program, Burke learned how to start her business and presented in front of an investor panel.
Two months after becoming a 2018 YEA! graduate, Burke was approached by one of the investors at the panel about the helping with and becoming the manger of the Schuylkill Haven Community Garden.
Burke oversees the garden and helps schedule environmental programming at the garden, which allows the community to learn more about agriculture.
“I am also the food and agriculture director for the Jefferson Grange and in our June meeting we went to the community garden,” Burke said. “I gave all the members a tour and talked about the tomatoes and what plants we have here, when to start gardening, and how we deliver produce to Evans and the food bank.”
Burke’s other accomplishments including becoming a Borlaug Scholar, being the leader of The Urban Garden Initiative Orwigsburg Chapter, winning $1,000 to put toward revitalizing her high school’s greenhouse in the Dolphin Tank event, attending the Climate Reality Leadership conference educational training, being accepted into Pennsylvania School of Excellence in Agricultural Sciences, and attending Schuylkill Act and Impacts, among others.
“I just am really appreciative that my work is being recognized,” Burke said of the Young Woman of Conservation Leadership award. “There’s countless other people who do the same thing or similar things that I do that don’t get recognized. I feel like it’s just not about me.”
Woman of Lifetime Achievement in Conservation award
The Woman of Lifetime Achievement in Conservation award celebrates the lifetime accomplishments of a woman who has made a difference by devoting a significant part of her life to protecting and enhancing Pennsylvania’s natural greatness. The award also recognizes the recipient’s dedication to environmental advocacy and justice.
Goodrich, who resides in Orwigsburg, has worked in raptor conservation at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary since shortly after earning her master’s degree in ecology from Rutgers University.
“When I was looking for a job, Hawk Mountain had an opening so I applied,” she said. “I was lucky enough to get selected. I was hired as one of the first biologists, hired for research basically. Mostly I was in charge of the migration count early on and also conducted the count at least three days a week.”
She later earned her Ph.D. in ecology from Penn State University. As Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Goodrich has served as interim director of education and research biologist.
Currently, Goodrich coordinates science work with the sanctuary’s ongoing programs in education and stewardship. She also oversees the conservation science traineeship program which hosts students from across the globe.
“It’s very rewarding to work with these guys and their predecessors,” Goodrich said, while joined by trainees at the North Lookout for that day’s count. “It’s a very rewarding program to be involved with for all of the staff. People come from all over the world to try to learn about raptor biology and conservation and mitigation. Then they go back to their countries and they try to make a difference in protecting raptors and conserving wildlife.”
Goodrich helped establish the Veracruz River of Raptors raptor conservation site in Mexico and currently serves as an advisor. She also co-led multi-year efforts to assess Northern Goshawk populations in Pennsylvania and helped recently launch a new raptor watch-site in Colombia.
Her other accomplishments include co-leading the sanctuary’s land conservation efforts, co-leading research on the migration ecology of the broad-winged hawk, collaborating with other avian science organizations to derive population trends for North American raptors, and co-publishing Hawk Mountain’s first scientific paper on raptor migration trends, among others.
“It’s a great honor, I was very surprised and humbled,” Goodrich said about the Woman of Lifetime Achievement in Conservation award. “It feels good to be recognized. I do what I do because I’m passionate about it and I believe in it. I’m not doing it necessarily for the recognition, but it is certainly a nice icing on the cake to receive the award.”
When it comes to conservation, Goodrich believes everyone should care about and enjoy it.
“Everybody wants clean air, clean water and wants to enjoy wildlife,” she said. “We need to conserve natural landscapes and habitats just for those things. In addition, if you care about birds in any way, even if you’re just a backyard birder, we need to think more about the big picture. Think about protecting areas, natural habitats because that’s what supports these other creatures and ultimately everything is connected to us.”
Everyone can play a role in conservation efforts, Goodrich added.
“People can really make a difference in their backyard,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be let’s go our and try to save a thousand acres. It could be re-vegetate your yard with native shrubs and trees. A lot of research has shown that migrating flocks of songbirds will use those backyard habitats if they are provided.”
Source: Berkshire mont