Mar 26, 2011 03:00AM
● By Anonymous
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“When I was a little girl, I was given a Brownie camera, the kind you had to hold very close to the subject. One day, I wanted to get a picture of a woodchuck. So I laid on the ground next to his hole and covered myself with leaves. Four hours passed, but he still didn’t appear. Later, the simple reason why was explained to me: Woodchucks don’t come out at that time of the day. I learned a good lesson—even if it was the hard way—because it taught me something I have never forgotten about dealing with all living things: You have to be patient.”
As Judy Wink’s life has turned out, staying on course and exercising patience along the way have yielded positive results in her private and professional pursuits. Also, having a straightforward approach when interacting with others, coupled with a tremendous sense of humor, has served her well.
“I had an interesting early education,” notes Wink. “I did not participate in a traditional classroom until eighth grade. I was tutored by my parents and grandparents a long time before home schooling became popular. Since I didn’t have the usual school restraints, I was free to spend many days hiking around the landscape. By the time I was five years old, I not only knew how to read but could also identify all the local birds. It was such an ideal place to live, and I am grateful my family encouraged me to seek this out-of-doors enlightenment.”
While earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in education, wildlife biology, environmental studies, and wildlife management administration, Wink kept an eye out for ways she could make a difference in society and the environment. Becoming professionally involved in the education and conservation fields, pushing green products and green systems for sustainability, and nurturing her lifelong passion of ornithology kept her focused and on course.
Spanning four decades, Wink’s work brought her to a number of Pennsylvania locales where she held positions at conservation and environmental education centers. She also taught in the Pennsylvania public school system and at Cedar Crest College in Allentown. In 1995, Wink founded The Habitat Works, Inc., which provides consulting expertise for hazardous waste cleanup and disposal. She still serves as the corporation’s president and CEO.
In her position at the CBEC, Wink oversees the 510-acre preserve—a magnificent montage of wetlands, marshes, meadows, and woodlots. It was originally known as “Horsehead Wetlands” before being incorporated in 1979 as the Wildfowl Trust of North America, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to “promoting stewardship through environmental education, research, and restoration for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay.”
“Year-round, we provide the general public with great, age-appropriate programs, camps, workshops, and activities,” Wink says. “We are constantly striving to serve our visitors relative to their interests. We want them to take something away with them; to provide knowledge that will lead them to doing something substantive.”
With a smile she adds, “In addition to all this great stuff, I lead many of the bird walks, and these experiences are top-notch!” During the four seasons, more than 200 different bird species can be sighted in diverse habitats and secluded blinds—from observation towers as well as along the boardwalks and four miles of trails within the sanctuary, which is surrounded by Prospect Bay, Cabin and Marshy Creeks, and Kent Narrows. The CBEC is also home to a multitude of wildlife. For water enthusiasts, paddling expeditions offer opportunities to come upon some of the Bay’s most spectacular aquatic life. And interesting in-house and outreach programs are presented at their new, state-of-the-art Education and Fine Arts Center, as well as at area schools and civic groups.
As a nonprofit organization, the CBEC receives no government monies, whether it be the local, state, or federal government, to fund their efforts. “We rely on private donations, membership and program fees, admissions, and grants from sources that include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Constellation Energy,” advises Wink. “And our invaluable volunteers help us stay open, too, with their annual collective contribution of more than 10,000 hours.”
Since the 1990s, Judy Wink has found space in her schedule to serve on the boards of a dozen organizations and agencies that promote conservation through education. Presently, she’s board secretary of the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce in addition to chairing its Aqua Agriculture Committee, and she also serves as chairperson of the Wye River Upper School Board.
During time away from the CBEC, Wink enjoys spreading her wings, discovering new places near and far. “Travel brings excitement into my life and, over the years, I have found that my vocation and avocation pretty much parallel one another.” Her most recent treks have taken her to Costa Rica, where she’s setting up a program between Colina Azul, a private school in Atenas, and Kennard Elementary School in Centreville. “I delight in working with these children, teaching them about the birds in their own back yards, and getting both classes to talk with one another about the neotropical species that migrate as well as all the wildlife they have in common. The computers and equipment that will make this interaction possible will soon be up and running. And we hope one day to have an actual student exchange.”
When asked about the challenges the CBEC faces, Wink responds: “All nonprofits are experiencing serious circumstances because of today’s economy. Our job must be to look to the future, reinvent ourselves, and find new venues for sustainability. It’s also very important for us to provide alternative solutions to environmental dilemmas and get the word out to area developers about the critical importance of completing their building projects with the least impact on our environment.”
Gregg Todd, Chief Operating Officer for Queen Anne’s County, believes the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center is in good hands. “Judy is an excellent resource and is continually willing to give of her time and expertise. Her focus always appears to be on what is best for the citizens of this county,” he says.