Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary volunteer Jean McCollom was honored as Audubon Florida’s Volunteer of the Year at this year's Audubon Assembly, the annual gathering of the state’s Audubon chapters and other conservation leaders.
“Jean has made a substantial difference at Corkscrew and throughout the state this past year in championing restoration, science and land management priorities,” said Director Jason Lauritsen of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, who nominated her and presented the award.
McCollom’s current volunteer service at Corkscrew includes helping with prescribed burns, treating exotics, and monitoring willow treatments. She is the lead member of the Sanctuary’s Resource Management Committee.
Lauritsen noted that she and botanist George Wilder had conducted a two-year floristic inventory that cataloged “the jaw-dropping diversity of plant life at the Sanctuary, documenting 753 species, nearly 200 more than previously known, including 35 species thought to be extirpated from South Florida, and five previously considered ‘Historical,’ and 27 that are critically endangered.”
Lauritsen’s nomination letter also noted that she co-authored a report on the “Vegetation Response to Treating Willows,” which she distributed widely throughout the state to promote the successes and lessons learned from resource management efforts at Corkscrew. “This report resulted in numerous inquiries about methods and Corkscrew’s work. Through it, Audubon has had a statewide impact in helping other land managers improve their restoration efforts,” Lauritsen said.
McCollom participates in Corkscrew’s prescribed burns, and exotic vegetation removal, and has been a vital resource for Senior Resource Manager Allyson Webb in updating the Corkscrew Resource Management Plan. McCollom recently assumed the chair of the Corkscrew Resource Management Committee.
She has deep roots with Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. She came to Florida as an intern at Corkscrew in 1981 and has been working there as a biologist ever since.
She spent 13 years with the National Audubon Society as a field ecologist for their Ecosystem Research Unit based at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and worked with the Nature Conservancy at Disney Wilderness Preserve for seven years as research monitoring biologist, conducting the restoration monitoring field program.
From 2000-2015, McCollom was the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s biologist and land manager for Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area northeast of Immokalee, primarily treating exotic plants, prescribed burning, and restoring abandoned cow pastures back to native pine flatwoods. She received the 2014 Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
McCollom has a Master’s Degree from University of Arizona School of Renewable Natural Resources in Watershed Management.
The 2018 Audubon Assembly – titled “Rising Tides: Building Common Ground for Climate Change Solutions” – was held October 19-20 at the West Palm Beach Marriott.