The Environmental Education Volunteer of the Year award is awarded to an individual who has made a significant contribution to environmental education specifically through volunteer (unpaid) service to an environmental organization in our state. Work may include but is not necessarily limited to teaching, group facilitation, field leadership, program development, administration, writing, speaking, presentations, or fundraising.
This year, our award process for this category was different. Our nominee and winner, Janet Ryan-Finlayson from Utah's Hogle Zoo, passed away shortly after the nomination was submitted. In honor of her dedication to Environmental Education and the citizens of Utah, we held a posthumous award presentation with her family, friends and colleagues. Janet’s supervisor, Christine Schmitz, highlighted many of Janet’s contributions through her volunteer work with the Hogle Zoo, though undoubtedly, there is so much more that could be said.
“Jan has served as a Utah’s Hogle Zoo volunteer for 30 years. During this time she has given over 10,000 hours of time to the Zoo’s education programs. This year she has already spent 300 hours sharing her knowledge of the natural world with Zoo visitors, community members and school children. She also volunteers as a trainer—tirelessly mentoring new staff and volunteers on animal handling protocols and accurate information. In addition, Jan is part of the team we affectionately call the “office divas.” She is instrumental in scheduling trips to schools and community functions throughout the valley, often scheduling herself for these events to sharing her love of the natural world with those young and old. Jan’s presence in schools, the community, and at the Zoo, educating the public about native species and conservation, is instrumental in developing others’ understanding of our place in Utah’s ecosystem. More importantly, it is her enthusiasm and skill for sharing that helps to plant the seeds that will one day germinate into the future stewards of Utah’s natural resources. Jan has completed all three of the Utah Master Naturalist modules and also volunteers with the State Archeologist office and for RINS (Raptor Inventory Survey). We ask you to consider Jan for USEE Volunteer of the Year, as this award would be a wonderful highlight to her volunteer career. She has contributed so much to Utah’s Hogle Zoo and to the community, and we feel that she is more than deserving of this honor.” - Christine Schmitz, Supervisor