As many of you are aware, I prepare a new story each week to highlight an individual who provides great help to our Calvert citizens on a regular basis with little or no recognition. It is my firm belief these 50 personalities I have identified so far have done much to make our County beautiful! And, I am thrilled to tell you my guest this week is actually in the business of maintaining Calvert’s beauty, both as a County employee and an avid naturalist who spends much of her free time leading projects to enhance this wonderful part of the world. I have yet to meet this lady, but it appears she has her hands in everything to protect and improve our environment while taking care of the critters we share this world with!
Karyn hails from Philadelphia and grew up in its nearby suburbs. She has a great history of involvement in educating the public about our environment through programs for families, adults, schools and summer camps. At an early age, she thought she wanted to become an artist while a Textile major at the Philadelphia College of Art and St. Joseph’s University. However, she realized that this passion was not really going to lead to a life profession, so she transferred to the University of Maryland where she became a “Terrapin” and majored in Zoology in their Honors program. During this time she worked at the National Zoo studying the interactions between mother possums and their young. She also analyzed the nest building characteristics and mating practices of Australian satin bowerbirds.
During her junior year, she became aware of the work being performed by the Audubon Naturalist Society [ANS] and was attracted to their environment educational efforts. She added a Science Education minor to her agenda, eventually earning her BS in Zoology and accepting a position at ANS as their Education Coordinator. Among her duties, she was placed in charge of family and children’s programs that were conducted on weekends, after school and summer camps. She worked on a pilot project to study the aquatic insects in the streams of Montgomery County. While employed at ANS, she learned from experts in every field of natural history including insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants, geology, wetlands, and forest ecology and so much more.
In 1995, Karyn accepted a position with nearby Anne Arundel County as the Naturalist at their Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary where much of her job consisted coordinating the educational programs once more [do you see a trend here?]. What she enjoyed about her work there was an active ecology monitoring and research mission that included the use of volunteers as “citizen scientists”. This position combined her two passions for education and research and she marveled they actually paid her to do what she loved best! She was involved in major research projects involved in the breeding migration of salamanders, the diversity and distribution of amphibians, reptiles and fresh water fishes, and the distribution of plants in tidal and upland habitats to mention just a few of her pursuits.
At some point during this period, Karyn and her husband Gary Pendleton, an artist, moved to North Beach from Takoma Park due to her husband’s employment had him working here in Southern Maryland. They chose “The Beaches” because they liked the idea of walking from their house to the Bay and the nearby stores. She also stated they liked living in a “municipality” with a local government where “they could get involved and make a difference in the place where they lived”.
Here is where Karyn’s story concerning her Calvert County experience takes its turn. In 2012, she accepted the position of Division Chief of the County’s Department for Natural Resources where she once again is able to work in a parks “scenario” that has a primary mission of environmental education and natural resources stewardship. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the management of nine County Nature Parks and other resources such as fishing piers, boat ramps, and hunting areas. She says her staff gets all the “fun jobs” and she gets the “bureaucratic stuff”!
I could go on and on about all the great things her department provides the County, but I do want to finally focus on her personal contributions as a volunteer for, after all, this is what this journal is about. Karyn has taken on volunteer work throughout her life, beginning with helping her dad with teaching Sunday school, assisting her brother with his Cub Scout Troop, and coaching her sister’s softball team. As she got older, she volunteered to work at an adoption agency for dogs and later at the Philadelphia Zoo where she cared for their camels for two summers.
Later, her volunteer efforts focused on environmental efforts. She was part of the group that founded the Maryland Native Plant Society, an all-volunteer organization that sponsors projects statewide to promote awareness and conservation of our native plants. She has served as President and Secretary and maintains their website. She chairs their Annual Fall Conference and is currently the County Representative for the Southern Maryland Chapter. She participates on the Town of North Beach Environmental Committee where she helped increase their recycling efforts, resulting in reducing monies that went to trash pickups. She alerted town officials to grant money available for helping communities prepare for sea level rise impacts. She previously volunteered with the Calvert County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the North Beach Tree Committee, and the Steering Committee for the North Beach Bayside History and Nature Center.
You can probably find this energetic lady leading a summer school program, promoting and presenting events at one of our parks, or at just about any local project to protect the environment. When not wrapped up in these worthwhile causes, Karyn finds time to knit to relieve stress and boredom and has won several First Place Ribbons for items she has entered in the Calvert County Fair. She also plays an “old-time” fiddle with the band “Rockfish” and just returned from a vacation at a music camp in West Virginia. And with her husband and two cats, Hazel and Ginger, they have created their yard as “wildlife and pollinator friendly” using mostly native plants.
Karyn you are a remarkable person. We are so fortunate to have you reside here with all the gifts and talents you offer. Thank you for all that you do. And thank you for this story!
Dave Spigler resides in Lusby and has been a resident of Calvert County since 1979. He has been recognized many times for his years of community service. He received the “Calvert You Are Beautiful Award” for 2013 and recognized by the Knights of Columbus as the “Maryland Citizen of the Year” in 2011. He was a member of the HOGETTES, the Washington Redskins “Biggest Fans” for 22 years. If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at email@example.com.