Maddy Heredia, the first full-time environmental educator in the 40-year history of Kentucky Nature Preserves, has been named the recipient of Kentucky Association for Environmental Education’s 2020 Excellence in EE Rising Star Award.
In her first year at Kentucky Nature Preserves, Maddy initiated new partnerships with natural areas throughout the state for field trips, oversaw new citizen science projects, expanded the organization’s social media presence, created interpretive signage, and developed KNP's Kentucky Nature Summit, the largest multi-agency EE event in the agency’s history.
“I feel that now more than ever, it is crucial to educate the public on our natural resources and the threat of losing them in the near future,” Maddy says. “By exposing more and more people to breathtaking views, interesting plants and animals, and conservation work, I hope to instill a new appreciation of the environment and sense of responsibility to take care of it.”
She says an especially rewarding aspect of her work is interacting with children in school groups, summer camps, and underserved communities, offering them experience they might not have been exposed to otherwise.
“I grew up in Chicago in a very urban environment,” she says, “and I credit a lot of my passion for conservation to key people in my life that gave me experiences in the outdoors at a very young age.
For me, it is so amazing to hear a child tell you that they want to be a herpetologist when they grow up, after I’ve showed them a salamander for the first time.”
Zeb Weese, Kentucky Nature Preserves' Executive Director, says Maddy continually completes her work “with a smile and positive attitude. She is an incredible ambassador for Kentucky's biodiversity and natural areas.”