Stacy Kinsell is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program (Rare Care), but it hasn’t been a straightforward path to get there. Kinsell’s undergraduate work was in social work and urban studies. After school, she packed up for an adventure in a new city far away from her native Georgia and moved to Seattle. She quickly fell in love with the city, but not the career and after a few years of working in her new field, Kinsell was feeling burnt out. She had already started volunteering with a farm on Bainbridge Island and decided to take a dive. She quit her job and started an apprenticeship on the farm. “That plunged me into the most wonderful adventure into the world of plants,” she explains. An adventure that took her from agriculture to horticulture and eventually to the University of Edinburgh and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where she received her MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants.
After living abroad for several years, she returned to Seattle, her adopted home, with a hope of finding a position working in botany – a tall order, she admits, but it worked out. Kinsell began her position with Rare Care in February. “I feel immensely thankful and honored that I was able to land this position and have the opportunity to work at the UW Botanic Gardens carrying out conservation work!”
As Kinsell describes it, Rare Care is “a fantastic program that utilizes the excellent resource our region has in citizen scientists to monitor rare plant populations around Washington State.” Relying heavily on volunteers who have gone through a rigorous training, the program is able to monitor over 100 rare plant populations each season. Kinsell’s primary role is in supporting these volunteers, providing the necessary documents and maps they need to find the plants and monitor them.
As Kinsell adjusts to her new position, there is a lot that she’s enjoying. The first thing she mentioned? The opportunity to work with such passionate and knowledgeable volunteers. “We ask a lot of them,” she explains, “and they deliver with a dedication I’ve never seen in volunteers before.” Kinsell describes herself as a botanist at heart, and is excited about the opportunities she will have this summer to get back out in the field. She will be helping with this year’s annual monitoring weekend, where volunteers spend a weekend camping and monitoring all the rare plants of a particular site.
Outside of work, Kinsell is keeping busy too. She and her partner recently bought a house that, as she puts it, “is in need of a lot of love” so much of her time is spent doing renovations. She says she’s still having fun, though, learning how to tile and use new tools. “As for true hobbies,” she adds, “I enjoy baking, hiking, soap-making, growing vegetables, and cycling.”
And a favorite plant?
Kinsell says she is perpetually fascinated by Welwitschia mirabilis, ancient and massive desert giants found in the Namib Desert in southwestern Africa. She lived for a time in South Africa and was lucky enough to spend three weeks road tripping through Namibia to see these beasts. “With their long curling leaves and protruding cones, they are stately figures dotting an otherwise bare landscape… they are just magnificent!”
Though she has settled in Seattle, her interest in traveling has certainly not been satisfied. She says Colombia is at the top of her list of places to visit right now. “It is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world and after watching the documentary Colombia Magia Salvaje, I can’t stop thinking about it.”