VCE Presents the 2012 Julie Nicholson Citizen Scientist Award

Outstanding citizen scientist Kevin Hemeon catches darners for the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership! Hemeon plans to continue his contributions to citizen science projects for as long as he can swing a net and hoist a pair of binoculars. © Kevin Hemeon

I was raised in the hills of Petersburgh, New York. Throughout my childhood I had acre upon acre of woods to roam. A frog pond in an old cellar hole, a woodland stream, an old field, and a hemlock swamp added to the variety of habitats that were my playground. We tended a half-acre garden, raised various animals and picked any wild berries and fruits in season.

My interest in nature took off from here. My rural setting necessitated that I was mostly self-taught, and I had all of Herbert S. Zim’s nature guides. Although not comprehensive, they were invaluable beginning books. I filled holes in my knowledge with other books, including many borrowed from my school library.

My oldest bird guide, a dog-eared copy of Golden Field Guide to The Birds of North America, was given to me at age eight by my mother, in part to divert me from constantly asking, “What bird is that?” I diligently kept our home bird feeders full each winter, and I used that book to great advantage.

In 1981, I received my four-year degree in Zoology from the State University of New York at Oswego. Thanks to my entomology professor, Dr. Nelson, I developed an interest in insects. He encouraged me, via the loan of a net and collection jar, to join a three-week field course in Ecuador during my junior year. There we tended live traps in the mornings for a marking study of small mammals, and we mist netted bats in the evenings. I spent afternoons studying two species of lizard for an independent project. In my free time I made good use of that net, mainly in pursuit of beetles, which became my first insect interest. When returning my borrowed field gear to Dr. Nelson after the trip he asked, “What equipment?”, allowing me to keep that net and use it for many more years.

Upon graduating from SUNY Oswego, I found my way into the landscaping trade, where my knowledge of plants proved helpful and has steadily grown. This has proved valuable for projects such as the Vermont Butterfly Survey (VBS), where an ability to locate host plants increased my efficiency during field surveys.

Currently, I live in Hoosick Falls, New York with my wife Marie. We have a son Connor, daughter Nicole, and two grandchildren. This past summer, I had the pleasure of putting a net in my three-year-old granddaughter’s hands. Hopefully, her interest will blossom, and she’ll become an expert butterfly catcher for the next VBS.

I have helped on dragonfly surveys in New York and New Hampshire, but most of my activity has been in Vermont, where I was happy to net Common Green Darners for VCE this summer. Participation in my local Audubon Chapter years ago led me to bird counts, then to VINS, and now to VCE. I have truly enjoyed my role as Bennington County coordinator for the Vermont County Birding Quest. The VBS brought me back to insects, and I have pursued that passion with the current Vermont Bumblebee Survey. It is a great honor to receive the Julie Nicholson Citizen Science Award, and I plan to continue working on these and other wildlife surveys for as long as I can swing a net and hoist a pair of binoculars!

—Kevin Hemeon

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