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Essential Person

Beth Cortright is Helping PEEC Grow By Mandy Marksteiner

Beth Cortright is the new Nature Center coordinator at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, 3540 Orange St, and said that she couldn’t be happier. “As soon as I moved here I started volunteering at PEEC,” she said. “The Los Alamos County Council was voting on a potential new Nature Center for this community and I was ready to help in whatever way possible. Even though I was new to the area, everyone was so welcoming and I was able to learn so much right away.” Cortright, 25, was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio in a family for which “absolutely everything was volunteer based from church activities to our work with the Western Wildlife Corridor,” she said. The organization would buy up land to ensure it remained a wildlife sanctuary or worked with land owners to write up conservation easements ... everything for my sister and me to have access to wildlands and parks where we could learn about nature.” Cortright’s father worked in maintenance for the City of Cincinnati and involved his daughters in environmentally conscious activities in the community. “Cincinnati had a nature center but it was on the other side of the city 50 minutes away so I practically lived at the Cincinnati Natural History Museum,” she said. “Having the nature center here in Los Alamos so accessible is just wonderful.” Cortright’s mother worked in the healthcare field. She was very environmentally conscious and concentrated on involving her daughter in sustainability issues around the house. “There was always the garden in the backyard and always low-flow everything at our house,” Cortright said. My dad always joked about not having any sons but my sister now works for GE Aviation as an engineer in Santa Ana, Calif., and I’m a biologist,” she said laughing. Cortright came to know Los Alamos through her boyfriend who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The couple met two years ago when she went caving in Carlsbad. “I visited Los Alamos while finishing college and really liked it here,” she said. After earning her Master’s Degree in Biology from the University of Cincinnati in March, Cortright moved to Los Alamos and started looking for a job at places like Bandelier National Monument. Wherever she went, people recommended PEEC and it has turned out to be a perfect fit, she said. It also turned out that she was able to apply what she learned in grad school right away. Most of her biology training is in entomology and PEEC recently received several sets of empty insect drawers. “I want to get a grant to fill them up with insects from the Pajarito Plateau. I’ve already started my own insect box at home,” Cortright said. She also found an opportunity to play a larger role at PEEC through applying for a position as a Public Allies of New Mexico, which is a division of AmeriCorps. In her role as a Public Ally, Cortright’s job is to build the capacity of PEEC. For example, she will spend time focusing on fundraising and volunteer recruitment. “It’s a learning experience for me and for the organization. The Public Allies program teaches us to build a better non-profit,” she said. “What more could I want being a biologist? I’m excited to work with kids, families and people who want to help out. I immediately saw PEEC’s potential with their new Nature Center, and with the waiting lists they had for their programs, and with the call they have for more of what they offer. It’s environmental education at its finest.”

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Essence October/November 2012

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Essence Oct-Nov 2012  

The Essence of Los Alamos and White Rock