The Kachemak Heritage Land Trust is hosting its annual gala this weekend, and as part of the event, it will give away its fourth annual Land at Heart award, which honors those who have made contributions to land conservation on the Kenai Peninsula.
Carmen and Conrad Field will receive the award Saturday for their years of environmental education work around the peninsula. Carmen passed away in early 2016, but her husband Conrad will be on hand to accept the award. He said he’s honored the land trust is recognizing the legacy Carmen left behind.
“I think the thing about stewardship and this whole award is the concept of stewardship is the fact that you are directly involved with your land and your area,” Conrad said.” “You learn things, you execute those ideas on your own land and everything, but the next step is to teach about what you’re doing.”
The Fields moved to Homer in the late 1980s to finish their Ph.D. degrees. Both had already developed environmental education programs in the Lower 48, and Conrad said they naturally gravitated towards that line of work once they were in Homer.
They helped create curriculums for the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Beluga Slough and programs for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. They’ve written children’s books on marine life. Carmen also co-founded the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and the Kachemak Bay Environmental Education Alliance. They have also worked for a number of state and federal agencies building programs.
Conrad said while it’s been fun to teach people of all ages about everything from salt marshes to intertidal life in Kachemak Bay, he enjoyed working with the younger students the most.
“You can give them very advanced theorems and say, ‘Well, this is how this works, this works and this works.’ Then they’ll look at you square in the eye and say, ‘You mean it’s like this,’ and it’s simple language, they’ll spit it out,” Conrad explained. “Somewhere between fourth grade and senior year in high school, we lose logic. So, younger kids will keep you honest and actually teach you more than older children will and adults.”
Conrad is continuing to educate students around the Kenai Peninsula. He said over the past year since Carmen passed away, he has been working with university groups and is wrapping up some books they started together, and he said his daughter Eryn has been pitching in.
“She’s going on 13 and she’s good at it. She’s a lot like Carmen in the way she picks up things and understands natural histories. So, it’s her and I now kind of putting things together,” he said.
Conrad adds that if their work teaches people one thing, he wants Kenai Peninsula residents to take a hands-on approach to conservation and get in tune with their land. The land trust’s gala will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wasabi’s.