SPC Environmental Science Instructor Kelli Stickrath’s community contributions don’t stray far from her interests. Each term, she works closely with community partners like Keep Pinellas Beautiful, the City of Clearwater, Pinellas County Parks, and the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary to coordinate volunteer days to involve students, both in the Environment Club she oversees at the Tarpon Springs campus as well as those in her Environmental Science classes, to participate in community projects. Students have joined her in projects that allowed them to learn what it takes to be the caregiver of wounded birds of prey, beautifying the Primate Sanctuary or just cleaning up vegetation or trash at area parks – all to the benefit of the organizations and the environment and animals that they support.
Stickrath earned her associate’s degree at SPC before earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida. As part of her graduate studies, she worked with herpetologist Dr. Jack Stout, partnering with The Nature Conservancy to research the distribution and abundance of gopher tortoises on the Disney Wildnerness Preserve. She taught at Indian River State College and Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies before coming to SPC in 2009.
Stickrath says that she gets a lot of satisfaction out of the fact that many of her students go on to continue their volunteer service, and also find internships or employment with the agencies to which they’d donated their time. She believes that the volunteer work she coordinates at local nature preserves helps students, animals, the environment and the community as a whole.
“I feel honored and humbled to be designated as an outstanding example of community engagement,” she said. “The community benefits by having the help they need on their understaffed properties.”