Esta Lee Albright is an integral part of the PEEC team. She started volunteering for PEEC in 2006, after moving to Los Alamos from Monterey, California. Initially Esta Lee worked mainly with the animal exhibits, and later she took over the enormous task of editing Nature Notes, PEEC’s quarterly newsletter. PEEC spoke with Esta Lee about her involvement with the organization, and how she has been able to utilize her skills and pursue her own interests in nature through volunteering at PEEC.
PEEC: How did you first become involved with PEEC?
E.L.A.: I moved to Los Alamos in 2006 from the west coast, where I had been active in education on the nature of the ocean and coastline. I had been on the board of the Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Cetacean Society and worked part time for 25 years as a whale watch naturalist, so water was my focus. Right away I wanted to learn about mountains and canyons, and the first place I visited was PEEC! I wandered in when Chick Keller was covering the nature center, and he gave my daughter Heather and me a first-class tour. I wanted to know how I could volunteer, and I became a member of the Board for two years. I tried to learn FAST!
PEEC: What kinds of things do you do when you volunteer at PEEC?
E.L.A.: At first, I volunteered to help with care of the live animal exhibits. In Monterey I had been a “surrogate mom” for orphan sea otter pups in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so I like to relate wildlife with their habitats. With Jennifer Macke, I took over the program whereby people can “adopt” a PEEC animal. The adoption fee helps with the cost of the exhibits, and I try to promote it as a popular gift item, too! I developed the new “adoption packet” for parents and through the adoption year I send them updates. As co-editor of Nature Notes (my daughter does the final format), I enjoy collecting some articles and writing others, then putting them together in the newsletter. It helps me keep a pulse on what is going on at PEEC and in our local environment.
PEEC:What do you enjoy most about volunteering at PEEC?
E.L.A.: I really enjoy being around the exhibit animals and the people who come to PEEC. I attribute a lot of my progress to the support and encouragement of Becky Shankland, who was the Nature Notes editor prior to me. Like her, the people of PEEC have enlarged the way I look for enjoyment and sharing of local nature.
PEEC: How have you been able to pursue your own interests by volunteering at PEEC?
E.L.A.: I started the PEECbirders online interest group about two years ago with my daughter Heather as technical support. It has been fun to see the group grow to more than sixty members. Through their postings, the newsletter and programs, I continue to discover our complex and diverse nature.
PEEC: What is one thing that might surprise us about you?
E.L.A.: I recently completed a book, About Monterey Humpbacks, Tales of Whales, based on what I’ve learned about whales. On the other hand, I consider myself a novice birder here, and I’m trying to continue learning about this area as a whole.
PEEC: Do you have any parting words with which to leave us?
E.L.A.: I have been lucky to have lived in places where nature is important to much of the population, and where I can use my career skills in teaching and writing to help people. Involvement with PEEC is a family pleasure for me with my daughter Heather, son-in-law Brady Burke, and granddaughter Kaity.