Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, is being honored for her work as the planner, teacher and coordinator of environmental educational activities at the center.
The Environmental Partnership Award will be presented by the Northeast Pennsylvania Environmental Partners on Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Wilkes-Barre.
Seven recipients of the Environmental Partnership Award and the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award Recipient will be honored. Along with that being presented to Gallagher, awards will be presented to: Field Habitat Partnership at Nescopeck State Park, Keystone Active Zone Passport Program, Natural Resource Conservation service coordinator Ryan Koch, Clear Run Elementary Center technology instructor Don Miller, Schuylkill County Sportsman Association and Keystone College biology professor Jerry M. Skinner.
The Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award will be presented this year to Tim Herd of Monroe County for his dedication to providing environmental education and promoting community collaboration over the last 30 years. Joanne Denworth, a land use and environmental lawyer in Gov. Ed Rendell's Office of Policy, will deliver the keynote address.
Gallagher has been with the CCEEC since 1988 and became the chief naturalist in 1998. She combines her environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation skills to provide CCEEC visitors with a unique perspective of the results of human interaction with our natural environment and wildlife.
She is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, a volunteer for the Carbon County Ground Water Guardians, a member of the WNEP-TV's "Pennsylvania Outdoor Life" field staff, and holds a seat on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Throughout her career she has demonstrated a deep concern for the environment and has devoted her life to environmental education and wildlife.
Gallagher grew up in McAdoo and graduated from Marian Catholic High School in 1988. She completed a degree in environmental studies at East Stroudsburg University.
The CCEEC was operating about three years when she was hired by Judy Wink as an intern during the summer of 1988.
"I got lucky because in March of 1989, they needed to hire a full-time person because one of the naturalists was taking a leave of absence," Gallagher said, "I stepped up to temporarily fill that position and when the naturalist did not return, I was hired full-time."
Gallagher worked as a naturalist for 10 years under Wink, and when Wink left in 1998, Gallagher moved into the chief naturalist position.
Gallagher introduced the Eagle Education Program, after rehabilitating two eagles: Renshaw a Bald Eagle, and Miss Charles a Golden Eagle.
"Both had been injured," explained Gallagher. "As the licensed wildlife rehabilitator here, I was the one who was initially responsible for their care, and for putting the permit package together for them to stay here as education birds."
Gallagher holds permits to rehabilitate raptors, songbirds and mammals.
At the CCEEC, Gallagher often has people bringing in sick, injured, or orphaned animals fixing them up with the goal of returning them into the wild.
"It is not so much about the individual animal, although it can be," she notes. "I'd like to think of it more of a public service that if someone finds an animal in distress and they don't know what to do with it, they are probably unlikely to let nature take its course. Most people don't want to let the animal die, and 90 percent of the time, the animal doesn't have to come here.
"Helping people is probably more important than helping the animals. We have a lot of people moving into the area that are not familiar with our wildlife. They don't know what's normal. They don't know if what they are seeing requires them to intervene, do something, or if it is something they should let alone.
"The needs in environmental education have changed over the years," she continued. "When I first started, kids spent time outside. I dealt with a lot of farm kids who already knew a lot and thought it was my job to focus their knowledge and tweak things for them a little bit.
"Now I'm dealing with kids who rarely set foot off concrete. Times have changed and kids have changed, so I think our mission is more about getting kids to step away from the electronics, and getting parents to get their kids outside."
Gallagher was nominated for the award by her supervisor, Carbon County Conservation District manager Jim Clauser. The nomination was detailed by her co-worker of 18 years, naturalist Franklin Klock.
"We couldn't think of a better person," Klock said. "When she took over the environmental center, she continued all the programs that were in place, and then allowed Jeannie Carl and myself, and others concerned in environmental education, to develop new programs and backed us to make the programs better than they were."
To receive information or an invitation to the awards dinner, call the Pennsylvania Environmental Council at (570) 718-6507.