"Celebrating Volunteers"

Volunteer treks through bogs, surveys rattlesnakes with field scientists

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program conducts research and collects data about plants, animals and natural communities throughout the commonwealth, with an emphasis on species of special concern. Volunteers with this program work with WPC scientists such as botanists, ecologists and herpetologists to support their research. The information gathered through this program is used by state and federal natural resource agencies, townships and municipalities, as well as private businesses and landowners, to make informed decisions about land use.

Anna Therese Kasicky
Anna Therese Kasicky

Anna Therese Kasicky
Anna Therese Kasicky, a 20-year old junior at St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland, needed real-life field experience in her chosen field of biology in order to prove to herself that she had chosen the right path — and to gain practical experience that could eventually lead to a job in her field.

“I wanted to look at conservation first-hand and see what ecologists really do in this field,” said Kasicky, a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of the Ellis School in Shadyside. “I’d taken classes at college, but you don’t experience it firsthand.”

A conversation with a WPC staff member led Kasicky to the Conservancy’s Natural Heritage Program and a summer spent outdoors assisting staff scientists with a range of research projects.

From June through August 2009, she hiked, snorkeled and waded her way through Pennsylvania’s natural areas to assist with research projects. She documented the biodiversity of bogs and fens, and she helped staff ecologists conduct freshwater mussel, rare plant and Massasauga rattlesnake surveys.

“I got to see that I really did like doing the work,” Kasicky said. “I was up to my waist in mud many days; it was an eye-opening experience and I had a blast. I love being outside and studying nature.”

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