Featured Volunteer: Thea Vernon

Thea Vernon, this month’s featured volunteer, is our behind-the-sceens data guru. She helps our administrative staff by entering timesheets for over 50 active volunteers and submits data for our partnership program between PEEC and the Los Alamos Senior Center’s LAVA program. We hope you enjoy learning more about Thea!

PEEC: Tell us about yourself.

T.V.: I grew up in a small village in the English countryside and spent most of my time outdoors exploring the local woods and farmland. My mum is an art teacher, my dad is a photographer and my sister is a digital assistant so I come from a very creative family! Growing up I could often be found with a sketchbook and pencil.
Eager to experience city life I moved to Bath, Somerset to attend university. That’s where I met Louis. Fast-forward to 2010, we were offered the chance to relocate to New Mexico and jumped at the opportunity. My only experience of the U.S. had been New York City so New Mexico was a bit of a shock. Not long after we arrived in Los Alamos I started working at Mesa Public library which was a great way to settle into the community. I now work as an Administrator for the New Mexico Consortium at their Research Park office. Outside of work, I seem to spend most of my spare time running after my son who is enjoying his new-found sense of independence (a nice way of describing the terrible twos). When I have some free time I like to garden, cook or find new sci-fi films to watch.

PEEC: Tell us about your family.

T.V.: My husband works at Descartes Labs and we have been married for 9 years. We have a 2-year-old son, Maxwell, who was born here in Los Alamos. We also have an Australian Cattle Dog mix, Dax, who we adopted from Espanola Humane Society.

PEEC: Where are you from and how did you end up in Los Alamos?

T.V.: I’m originally from Hertfordshire, England. It’s in the southeast, close to London. I moved to Los Alamos in 2010 with my husband, Louis, who was starting a Postdoc position at LANL. A story you’ll hear a lot in LA! We planned on staying here for two years but we fell in love with New Mexico and now 9 years, one dog and one baby later we’re still here!

PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?

T.V.: I saw a post on Facebook advertising volunteering opportunities so visited the PEEC website. I met with Christa and found somewhere I could fit in and help.

PEEC: What are your jobs at PEEC, what do you do?

T.V.: Funnily enough, my main task is to enter the volunteer timesheets. We have around 50 active volunteers each month that work a combined 650-750 hours.

PEEC: What other volunteer work do you enjoy?

T.V.: My son attends Little Forest Playschool so occasionally I have the opportunity to volunteer my time whether it’s preparing food for an event or doing laundry.

PEEC: Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?

T.V.: Volunteering allows me to feel like part of a community and to show my appreciation for places like PEEC.

PEEC: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

T.V.: I feel we’re very lucky to have a nature center here in Los Alamos. I’m glad I get to contribute where I can and work with some great people. Volunteering was also a great way of getting back into a work mentality after being a stay-at-home mum for a while.

PEEC: Best outdoor experience in Los Alamos?

T.V.: The night sky! I still can’t get used to the incredible views in NM and you don’t have to walk far before you come across a canyon or a view across the valley. I also really enjoy going to Bandelier National Monument when our family is visiting.

PEEC: What do you enjoy most about the Pajarito Plateau?

T.V.: The Valle Caldera – the scale of it is breathtaking. Not too many people can say they live at the edge of an inactive volcano.

PEEC: Best memory working with PEEC?

T.V.: My best memories have been as a visitor. I first took my son to the nature center when he was about 6 months old. He had never played in sand before so he was very excited about the new experience! He still loves playing in the sand and running around the building naming the different insects and reptiles. He discovers something new with each visit. As a volunteer, my best memory so far has to be finding out one of my friends also volunteers at PEEC. I carry out my volunteer work at home so I don’t get to meet many of the other volunteers.

PEEC: In your opinion, what is the most important work PEEC does?

T.V.: Educating the community about local wildlife, their importance and how to maintain their habitats.

PEEC: What outdoor hobbies do you enjoy?

T.V.: I don’t have green fingers but I do enjoy gardening. I also like exploring the local area with my dog and have done many of the trails around town.

PEEC: Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering?

T.V.: Go for it! Reach out and connect with the organizations that rely on volunteers. There’s always the need for help no matter how little time you can spare.

PEEC: What is on your wish list for PEEC for the next 10 years?

T.V.: My family loved meeting the baby goats at PEEC’s Summer Family Evenings. We attended the goat program two years in a row. I hope we get the opportunity to meet more animals.

PEEC: If you could be a local animal, which would you pick and why?

T.V.: If I could be any local animal I think I’d like to be a Raven. Purely for the fact that they seem to be living their best lives. Not only do they get the best views of NM but in the winter they’ll happily slide down the snow on roofs just for the fun of it. I would describe myself as an introvert but I admire how carefree and confident the Ravens are.

Article by Christa Tyson, PEEC Visitor Services Manager