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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Cookies and Camaraderie: Nancy Kedersha

Posted by | April 1, 2024 | Filed under: Culture

A bit of toffee, a bit of chocolate. A hint of sweet, dried fruit. Crisp, yet chewy. Lightly browned edges and marbling throughout. Trust a biochemist to produce the perfect cookie, and trust Nancy Kedersha to be kind enough to share them. A volunteer since 2022, Nancy supports the Reserve in several areas, from citizen science to trail ranger to invasive plant removal.

Drawn to science and art

Nancy is recently retired from a celebrated career in the biological sciences. She has her own Wikipedia page highlighting her accomplishments in science, research, and scientific photography, and is a four-time finalist for the Nikon Small World photomicrography competition, blending art and science by photographing objects under a microscope.

She is the owner of what she describes as an “itchy brain,” a restless and excellent curiosity that brings both benefit and challenge.

I never outgrew the “why?” stage. Most people graduate to more important questions like “How much is this worth?” “Will you marry me?” “What does my retirement fund look like?” Instead, I’m like, “Why?” It can be tiring. Try getting to sleep with an itchy brain!

Nancy uses her masterful microscopy skills as a research lab volunteer, working at an activity known as “fish picking.”

I was invited to help with the fish picking over at the lab. The staff put out plankton nets [at Wells Harbor] and volunteers sift through the debris, pick out the good stuff and count it. I now can identify the different subsets in the life of a crab—the zoea stage and the megalopa stage—all these cool words that I didn’t even know before.

One Volunteer, Many Roles

Nancy enjoys being outside after spending years in hospitals and research labs. She is an avid gardener. Her favorite tree is the dawn redwood, a deciduous conifer with soft needles that turn dusty orange and drop in the fall. She recently planted one as a memorial to her father.

My father was a gardener, my grandfather was a gardener. Every year as a birthday present to my father, my aunt would get a subscription to Organic Gardening and Farming magazine. I remember reading the ads in the back. Of course as a child I didn’t have any money, but I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get these plants? Now I have far too many plants!

As a volunteer Ranger walking the trails at the Reserve, Nancy noticed too many plants of another type—invasives.

I knew I wanted to do something about invasives here. I live in The Forest, an HOA in Wells. I was on the all-volunteer Landscape Committee. I organized people, I baked cookies, and we did the physical work of cutting and removing the bittersweet, barberry, honeysuckle and glossy buckthorn. The more we did, the more we realized the extent of the problem. We rented invasive-eating goats through EcoScapegoats. That was a hoot! They did a terrific job, which did not eliminate our job, since they didn’t pull up the roots. They weren’t that well trained!

Nancy (far left), and fellow volunteers Richard, Jamie and Helen, ready a load of invasives for the burn pile, summer 2023.

Last year, Nancy worked weekly through the summer and fall as a stewardship volunteer, removing tangled networks of invasive vine, stem, thorn, bush and root. She also collects water samples with fellow volunteer Susan Kaagan for the Maine Healthy Beaches program and is one of the 130 volunteers that make our annual Laudholm Nature Crafts Festival possible.

I love it here, I love the resources, the opportunities. I like to be outside, but a lot [of the motivation to volunteer] is guilt. Guilt for my species. I feel that we humans have kind of messed things up. The environment is out of whack and it is our fault. I can do a bit to push things back in the right direction. If I can help more people see how to mitigate the damage done by invasives, that will carry on.

Chocolate goes better with volunteering! Susan Kaagan and Nancy Kedersha deserve some sweet acknowledgement after collecting water samples on Laudholm Beach in support of the Maine Healthy Beaches program, summer 2023.

The work is ongoing and volunteers are needed in several areas, including working alongside Nancy as part of the invasive removal team (as well as docents and event volunteers).

The extent of the number of invasives to remove is daunting. We need more people, more help. If you have the time and the energy and you like to be here, why not help? With the invasives, there is a whole spectrum of ways you can help. If you like cookies, we often have cookies. We have camaraderie! We have a nice group of people. It is a good way to meet local people that have diverse interests and diverse skills. Come help defend your favorite place!

The Reserve is lucky to have the support of volunteers like Nancy, who bring not only their professional and life skills, but take on multiple roles, greatly expanding the capacity to get things done. Thank you, Nancy! And thanks to all our wonderful volunteers as we prepare for another busy season, working together to support and preserve this special spot on Maine’s southern coast.

Do you have questions about volunteering? Want to know more about volunteer opportunities at the Reserve? Contact Lynne Benoit at lbenoit@wellsnerr.org or call 207-646-1555 extension 118.

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