Member Spotlight: Thaissa Klimavicz

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1 – How long have you been involved with the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, and what is your
capacity (title?) now? How did you hear about the program? What projects have you worked on, i.e.,
guides, training, etc., etc.

I saw the advertisement about the Banshee Reeks VMN program in the local newspaper and was very excited to hop on board, especially since the nature preserve is less than two miles from where I live. I graduated with the class of 2010. I currently serve on the Training Committee and was a former Co-chair. I have also previously served on the Board for 3 years. As a member of the Host Committee, I have also been involved in organizing the annual VMN picnic raffle over the last few years.

I enjoy participating in nature education programs for children and have assisted high school and middle school nature field trips including stream monitoring, as well as children’s nature camps. I was instrumental in heading up the Audubon Naturalist GreenKids project, whose focus is to provide support for environmental education and to assist schools in obtaining the Virginia Naturally School Award, the environmental school recognition program for the Commonwealth. Specifically I was involved in Potowmack Elementary School’s courtyard pond habitat project and installing a native pollinator garden at Guilford Elementary.

2- Family: do you have a spouse and children, grand-children? Pets? What is your background, besides the VMN program? When did your interest in nature begin?

My family includes my husband John, 16-year old son Alex and 12-year old daughter Isabella and our 2 dogs. I’ve lived in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area for the last 25 years. My hobbies include travel, hiking, gardening and sewing.

I have a degree in Biochemistry from McGill University, Canada. I have worked as a pharmacological laboratory research assistant at the Rockefeller University in NYC, as well as an environmental consultant with a Navy Contractor in Arlington, VA. I changed careers and obtained my Masters in Education at Marymount University and taught middle school life science for 5 years in Loudoun County. Taking a graduate environmental education course really got me excited about teaching nature education to children. That led to a position as a Naturalist for the Audubon Naturalist Society. I currently work at Simpson Middle School as a teacher assistant.

I grew up in RI loving nature and spent a lot of my childhood exploring the nearby woods and meadows riding my pony. We lived only a few miles from the ocean and I enjoyed collecting shells, driftwood and skate cases, and was always enthralled watching the crabs and seabirds scurrying about. This fascination with nature is still with me today.

3- What aspects of being a naturalist are your favorite? Is there a particular area that you enjoy (or are more knowledgeable about) than another; i.e., geology, birds, insects, etc ?

I have particular interests in Invertebrates and Botany. I am trying to increase my knowledge of both – I have recently completed an online college course in invertebrate zoology. I love to garden and have made it a point to include many native plants in my backyard. My yard is a certified “Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary”.

4- Feel free to philosophize about a favorite aspect of being a naturalist if you like.

I truly believe in a reverence for nature and inspiring others, especially children. I am a big proponent of Richard Louv and his case for “saving our children from nature-deficit disorder”. I feel that every school should have an outdoor classroom.

I am always inquisitive and nature provides the opportunities for exploration, whether I’m kayaking in the Pacific Northwest and learning about the shore and ocean ecosystems, or piddling around in my own garden finding a tomato hornworm covered in parasitic wasp eggs. Any words of encouragement for the new VMN students enrolled in this years’ class?

The VMN program will provide a great foundation of understanding, but it will only just whet your appetite. Absorb and soak in as much as you can, but don’t let the content overwhelm you. Keep up the nature journaling. Be inspired and be willing to pass on the inspiration through your volunteer efforts.

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