Clear Spring native named Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by Florida federation

November 25, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Clear Spring native Kim Dryden stands on dry earth in a spot that was once a water-filled canal at the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. A major component of the plan to restore the Everglades, once completed, the Picayune Strand project will recreate natural water flows, historic water level conditions and ecological connectivity to the natural lands around it. One of Dryden's primary responsibilities is consulting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District and other U.S. Fish and Wildlife partners regarding the potential impacts Everglades restoration initiatives will have on wildlife.
Photo by Ken Warren

Growing up in Clear Spring, biologist Kim Dryden's childhood seems almost like a Disney nature movie.

Her father and grandfather both worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which gave her an unusual exposure to wildlife.

"I remember one January someone showed up with a grebe," Dryden, 54, recalls during a telephone interview from her Naples, Fla., home.

A grebe is a waterfowl. They are diving birds. Or as Dryden said, "it's basically like a mean, big duck."

"I can remember it splashing around in the bathtub because that's the only place we could think of putting it," she said. "They went out for New Year's Eve and it was splashing around in the bathtub."

Stories like that were frequent in her younger days where people would show up at the home of her parents, Betty and Rodney "Cork" Shank, with animal in hand for her dad to rehabilitate before releasing it back into the wild. For instance, she remembers seagulls walking around the house.

"And we raised baby owls, and they'd fly through the house and terrorize my mother," she said.

Her grandparents actually lived in the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area, which allowed her to use the area in the shadows of Fairview Mountain as her playground. There was a pond on the property as well as a stream that weaved through the land and plenty of trails that led around mountains.

"We'd go walk those trails and walk around the pond," Dryden said.

It was those early beginnings that laid the foundation for Dryden's chosen field as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida Ecological Services Office.

In June, Dryden was named Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation, at a special event in St. Petersburg, Fla.

According to the press release, the FWF said, "Florida is fortunate to have a biologist who is so completely dedicated to preserving the state's iconic fauna. Her commitment to the long-term success of wildlife in Florida is exemplary."

"It really did mean a lot to me," Dryden said of the award, who admittedly choked up during the ceremony.

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