National Volunteer Week, Day 1- Karen Yearsley

Karen is an active habitat steward who lovingly tends to the Garry Oak woodlands on her property in wonderful balance with her diverse vegetable garden. She never fails to show kindness to the natural world and the people around her, sharing her garden bounty with friends, neighbours and colleagues. Earlier this year she ran a small fundraiser by making her tomato seedlings available outside her home in exchange for a donation to HAT. The fundraiser raised over $1000 since 2017 and we are so inspired by the ways that incredible people like Karen continue to show HAT support. In order for us to show off how awesome our HAT community is Karen agreed to a short email interview about who she is and why she supports HAT, the interview is preceded by a write up about Karen written by HAT Land Protection Coordinator Barb von Sacken:

"In the early 1990's as a recent UVIC graduate I was delighted to find myself working for the Ministry of Forests, Research Branch in Victoria. There I was in awe of the vast knowledge of the Ecology program team which included Karen Yearsley.   Karen's work as part of the ecology program involved annual fieldwork to many rugged and remote parts of the province to collect plant, soil, and site data that helped build what is now the ecosystem framework for B.C. known as BEC or the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification.  Karen’s varied work in ecology eventually lead her to the Conservation Data Center (CDC) where her sharing of tomato seedlings and welcoming of HAT donations idea first sprouted. Even from the early days Karen has been a keen supporter of HAT, acting as a board member for many years, attending HAT events, spending years advising the HAT Land Committee, being an annual HAT member and of course her generous donations via tomato seedlings.  Most recently Karen has also shared her knowledge and interest in ecology by volunteering for HAT’s land protection program during our annual monitoring. It’s been a great pleasure to once again be sharing field days with Karen. "

Barb von Sacken

Land Protection Coordinator


Interview with Karen Yearsley

How did you first hear about HAT? or What first drew you to HAT as an organization?

I don't remember exactly but it must have been in the late 1990's soon after it was formed, probably from some of the founders with whom I had work connections (Eric Lofroth, Andrew Harcombe). I remember enjoying some of the early Musical HATs events.

HAT's values have always been in sync with mine so when someone suggested standing for the board back in 2007, I volunteered and have been volunteering ever since. 

What do you like best about HAT?

Hard to choose: that it's local, extremely well run, has great staff, goes quietly about implementing its mandate; accomplishes so much excellent conservation and education work for such a small organization working in an area of high land prices. I could go on...

Why is protecting and restoring natural habitats important to you?

Natural ecosystems are essential to supporting the continued presence of the species native to a particular area. We are living in an place where a large proportion of these ecosystems have been lost to human activities so it's critical to conserve and restore what we can.

What is something that you would tell someone who doesn't think conservation work is important?

Despite the highly modified environments most of us live in, humans are still all dependent on the natural world for our very survival (food, water, air, shelter, psychological well-being).

What is one small thing that people can do daily/weekly/monthly that can make a huge difference for the environment and/or habitat in their communities?

Find ways to care for whatever part of the natural world you are in contact with, however small that might be.

How many tomato plants did you sell? Why did you choose tomato plants?

Well, I don't really sell them but just put out a donation jar in case anyone wants to support HAT. this year I gave away around 220 plants.

 Years ago when I began to start plants for my vegetable garden there was always extras so I started taking them into my office and giving them away. Tomato plants are always popular and I usually had quite a few because I love trying out unusual heritage varieties. After a few years, I started putting out the donation jar because most people I worked with knew about HAT.

Do you find that gardening and conservation overlap? If so how?

Yes, in some ways, although a vegetable garden is a highly altered environment. However, I use organic growing methods and try to maintain food for pollinators so lots of invertebrates, and a few vertebrates manage to find useful habitats there. Then there's the half of my yard that is slowly being restored to the native ecosystem with only native plants in it, and the many native plants growing in my flower beds as well. Perhaps most important is that gardening encourages observation and appreciation of life outside, so long as you're not trying to manage it with chemicals and machines.

How has your history as a biologist changed how you see the world around you and is there anything that you have learned that you would like to share?

I'm not sure that being a biologist changed my world view, so much as that I gravitated to biology because it fit with what I value about the world. And that is why conservation of the wonders of the natural world has led me to such a long history with HAT.

Photo above: The varieties of tomatoes that Karen has available.

Photo above: Fawn Lily in Karen's Garry Oak meadow that she restored in her back yard. 


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