by Lee Harp, Honorary Board Member

My love for the Wetlands Institute and what it has accomplished for nearly 50 years starts with my childhood. I grew up on the barrier beach island of Brigantine. The northern and southern third of the island were totally undeveloped and the bayberry bushes were so dense that young explorers could easily experience the thrill of being “lost”. We learned to fish, crab and harvest clams, oysters and mussels about the same time we learned how to ride a bike. I’ll never forget the smell of the marshes in wintertime when the cold winter wind blew strong out of the northwest. I had “mud in my blood” and was delighted when Herb Mills invited me to join the Institute’s Board of Trustees in 1970.

The key elements that have kept me involved all these years have been the transformation of lives and attitudes toward the environment. About 10 summers ago, a brilliant young engineer from Exxon was required to do public service. She was accepted as an intern in the Terrapin Conservation Project and she absolutely loved the experience. Her final presentation was riveting because of her passion and eloquence as she described her team’s discoveries. Her experience made such an impression on her that she quit her job and went back to school completing advanced degrees in environmental science. She’s a professor of environmental science at a major northeastern university now. Then there are the young kids who participate in the Institute’s summer programs. It is fascinating and delightful to see them with portable seine nets collecting live specimens from our marsh shore, and looking at what they caught under microscopes while drawing what they see, so absorbed that they forgot about lunch.

These impacts are inspiring and transforming lives and instilling a conservation ethic in generations to come. All worth supporting for a lifetime, don’t you think?