Conservation Neighbor: Molly Monroe

By Heath Keirstead | December 15, 2020
Momlly wearing a blue butterfly tshirt, releasing a monarch butterfly at a preschool event.
Molly and a monarch

Over the last five years, Benton SWCD has offered thematic programming on pollinators, prairies, and birds. Local naturalist Molly Monroe has been one of the most consistent, passionate voices of support for all three of these conservation topics. It’s a pleasure to share Molly’s story with Benton SWCD’s conservation community.

Although Molly has lived as far away as Alaska and even Australia, her roots are right here in Corvallis, where she was born and spent her first six years. Molly’s dad was the outdoor writer for the Oregonian, so her childhood was full of nature adventures and encounters with influential people in the field of conservation. Molly developed an interest in biology early on, and still remembers learning about endangered species in second grade.

Perhaps because of her father’s career in communications and her formative experiences in nature, Molly is passionate about providing a voice for the plants and animals with which we share the planet. Over the course of her career, Molly has worked with spotted owls, California condors, streaked horned larks, dusky Canada geese, a few listed butterflies, and many rare plant species that take special efforts to provide the right habitat conditions for. According to Molly, “It is our responsibility to protect [rare species] as part of the puzzle we are all little pieces of.” In fact, when asked what conservation means to her, Molly replied, “Keeping the puzzle intact, not exploiting resources and protecting fragile habitats and their inhabitants. And in turn, these systems help improve air and water quality, increase pollination, reduce erosion and many other things benefiting our community.”

A life dedicated to conservation leads to some fantastic experiences. Molly raised the first four condors to be released in the Grand Canyon. Although she hasn’t made it there to see them in person, she hears they’re doing well. Back in 2017 Molly’s daughter’s preschool class raised and tagged 22 monarch butterflies, and one of them was spotted along its journey south not once, not twice, but four times! Read the full story here.

Molly introduces daughter Amelia to the joys of field work.
Molly with her field vest.
Molly doing field work.

And then there is the restoration work Molly considers her biggest conservation victory, accomplished over 18 years while employed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. If you sign up for a tour at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, you are likely to see the restored prairie in bloom and you may even meet Molly or her husband, fellow biologist Jarod Jebousek, discussing the restoration efforts. As you might imagine, this conservation power couple spends their vacations birding and exploring habitats in other regions.

According to Molly, she is motivated by her daughter “to educate the next generation, neighbors, and anyone else interested in learning about our native ecosystems.” Naturally, her interest in natural resources education has brought her in touch with various local agencies and organizations over the years. Molly currently volunteers with the Corvallis Sustainably Coalition and serves on the board of the Marys River Watershed Council. One of the ways Molly and Benton SWCD have crossed paths is through the effort to get Benton County certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Learn more about this honor and how you can participate here. She frequently brings Benton SWCD’s handouts about native plants (this one is her favorite) and mason bees (view the mason bee care brochure) with her to events where she encourages property owners to provide habitat in their yards, including adding native plants to their landscaping. She’s also been a volunteer for Salmon Watch because she “really enjoy[s] getting out with school children to help encourage their excitement about the nature around them.”

Molly shares information at a community event
Molly shares information at a community event.

Molly Monroe, with her personal and professional dedication to conserving the natural world and its inhabitants, is a role model for all budding and even long-standing conservation practitioners. When asked what advice she has for other folks looking to get into conservation work, she recommends, “Baby steps, look down and acknowledge how even the smallest critter or flower can influence the bigger picture around you. Figure out how your actions can affect what’s around you, find healthy alternatives for how to manage your property and volunteer on restoration projects.”

Thanks for your contributions to the health of the natural world, Molly! We’re glad to have you as our Conservation Neighbor!

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About the Author

Heath Keirstead

Heath Keirstead manages Benton SWCD’s Communications and Community Engagement as well as the Native Plant Program and Youth Education. She has a Master’s in Soil Science from Oregon State University. With a dual passion for people and the planet, she loves building relationships with partners, customers, volunteers, and students.

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