Susan Beatty, Ph.D. has been assisting the Huyck Preserve in connecting to people to nature through research for over 40 years! We are delighted to honor her as part of our 85th anniversary celebration. Below, she shares her history and why she has remained connect to the Preserve over the years.
As a fresh new graduate student at Cornell University, I started looking for a place to do my doctoral research in plant ecology. There was a good Cornell-connection in the mid 70’s at the Preserve (Bob Dalgleish, Director of ENHP was a Cornell alum) and several faculty had done research there. So I applied for a Huyck Grant in 1976 and was excited to get it! My first field season was in 1977 and I lived in Mill House, which was a residence at the time. The Preserve office was in Conklin Hall, Bullfrog Camp was still privately owned, and there was a very old barn where our beautiful Eldridge Research Laboratory now stands. There was a great ambiance surrounding the research going on at the Preserve, and Bob got all the researchers together every week to discuss each other’s work. Then we played volleyball on the Conklin Hall lawn. There was no Palmer House or Hilltown Café, so we made our own entertainment. At the then-named Institute of Man and Science (Carey Institute for Global Good today) I remember meeting Isaac Asimov several summers when he drove up from NYC for the annual science fiction writers workshop held at the Institute. All of these science and social interactions built the foundation for what is now a life-long love affair with the Huyck Preserve.
After finishing my Ph.D. I was a professor at UCLA for a decade, then University of Colorado in Boulder for two decades, and finally Portland State University (Oregon) for a few years, before finally coming “home” to Rensselaerville in 2014 with a job as Provost at The Sage Colleges (Troy/Albany campuses). For all of those years I lived in the west, I faithfully travelled every summer back to the Huyck Preserve to continue my field research. This year is my 40th data collection year! Wow. Over the years I received a few more Huyck Grants, but I also brought in NSF grants to fund my research and that of many students (Ph.D., MS, Undergraduate Honors). I loved being able to introduce my students to the Huyck Preserve community that continued to celebrate research and education. One of the best things about a field station like the Huyck Preserve is that you get to meet a lot of people you would never otherwise get to know. I learned a great deal about insect behavior, limnology, duck mating rituals, spider web building, communication among water striders, amphibian defense mechanisms, and the detrital food web, just to mention a few. As a plant ecologist and geographer, I expanded my scientific horizons just by being a part of the research community at the Preserve every summer. I formed life-long friendships that have enriched my life both personally and professionally. The Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station is a crossroads that brings together an incredible diversity of people and ideas.
The four primary missions of the Huyck Preserve are research, education, recreation and conservation/stewardship. Over the years I have seen these missions evolve and become integrated. Our educational programs are thriving, we have student interns every summer learning from the researchers, the research helps inform our policies and plans for conservation and stewardship, and the maintenance of the Huyck Preserve as a pristine watershed provides for all of the above! I am so thankful that I kept coming back every year, and was able to not only witness, but be a part of, the success of this incredible place.