Recognizing Rick Wallace, A PEEC Volunteer
By Christa Tyson, PEEC Volunteer Coordinator
Rick Wallace is a volunteer who shares his vast knowledge of space through talks, planetarium shows, and other PEEC events. He thoroughly enjoys answering questions from curious minds and sharing his passion for the Universe and how it works. When he gives a talk in the nature center planetarium, there will often be only standing room available. His popularity speaks to his character, knowledge, and excitement for astronomy.
Wallace has a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from U.C. Santa Cruz (Lick Observatory), with a concentration in numerical calculations of stellar explosions (Novae, Supernovae, X-Ray Bursts), and nuclear fusion. He has worked at LANL for 30 years, including physics simulations, security of Russian nuclear material, technical management, and international safeguards. He was awarded a shared Nobel Peace Prize for work he did to improve nonproliferation of nuclear weaponry.
PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?
R.W.: I’ve known Chick Keller, a PEEC volunteer, for 35 years. We were excited about the new nature center when it opened, especially because it included a planetarium. At the grand opening PEEC pointed out a need for a projectionist and for volunteers to curate the night sky shows, which was right up my alley. I also worked with Art Cox, a major donor to the planetarium.
PEEC: What do you enjoy about being a PEEC volunteer?
R.W.: I like sharing my knowledge with interested people, because I’m always excited about demonstrating the scientific method of determining, interacting with, and answering the most interesting questions about our natural world. I also like working with and learning from PEEC staff and volunteers—Bob Walker has taught me a lot about bird photography.
PEEC: In your opinion, what’s the most important work PEEC does?
R.W.: Fostering an appreciation for nature and the environment. It is very important for people to understand our place in the natural world and how we impact it.
PEEC: What outdoor hobbies do you enjoy?
R.W.: I absolutely love nature and wildlife photography! I spent a week in Alaska last summer tracking grizzly bears to learn their behavior and see if I could photograph them with a telephoto lens. Our group of 6 would freeze still and hope a bear would stroll by, which resulted in a lot of waiting, hoping, and patience.
PEEC: What do you love about the Pajarito Plateau?
R.W.: The views, open air, and wide expanses where you can see for 50 miles. It is a very dramatic landscape, and there is a top-of-the-world feeling up here with the views of distant mountains across the Rio Grande Valley.
PEEC: How does PEEC improve your life?
R.W.: PEEC has given me opportunities to associate with other skilled wildlife and nature photographers, which helps make me a better photographer; and I find the learning aspect exciting. I love the hiking opportunities too.
PEEC: If you had magic superpowers, what would you do?
R.W.: I’d like to hop in the spaceship of the imagination and search for answers. I would journey into the center of black holes, find out what dark matter is, see what is in the center of galaxies, learn the details of how the solar system formed, and discover why we have one planet with one moon that goes in the opposite direction from all the other moons.
If you are interested in learning more about PEEC and the Los Alamos Nature Center at 2600 Canyon Road visit peecnture.org. To learn more about volunteering, ask to speak with Christa Tyson, Volunteer Coordinator, or send her an email.