July 2011: Congratulations to Brenda Costanzo on the receipt of her well-deserved Acorn Award. Brenda has been involved with GOERT since the initiation of the Recovery Team and has contributed in countless ways. She remembers the early days around the year 2000 when meetings were held at TLC’s beautiful Abkhazi Garden in Fairfield and the RIGs (working groups) were just forming. She became a member of the Plants at Risk RIG, which she chaired on and off from 2001–2009, and the Restoration & Management RIG. She recently contributed a chapter (Native Plant Propagation and Supply), co-authored with Fred Hook, to our soon to be published restoration compendium. They say if you want something done, ask a busy person: Brenda is always one of the first to respond to a request to review a document or provide information. Thanks Brenda!
GOERT Chair Brian Reader says, “Brenda’s contributions to GOERT’s success have been innumerable and invaluable, going well beyond her passion for conservation and great knowledge of botany, ecology, native plant propagation and species at risk planning and protection. Brenda works incredibly hard on many fronts but never seeks recognition for her efforts. She is always there to provide sound strategic advice and support on program funding and project management and has helped secure and then manage many funding packages and projects for GOERT. Thanks Brenda for all your tireless efforts on behalf of a mission dear to your heart!”
Brenda has a M.Sc. in Biology and her background is in plant taxonomy, native plant identification, herbarium curation, and native plant gardening. She is a co-author with April Pettinger of Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A Guide for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest published in 2002. Over the years she has taught many native plant gardening courses and presented numerous public talks on gardening with native plants. As well, she designed and installed the first phase of the native plant garden at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in 1985. Her first love has always been gardening, and she is currently working on her yard to integrate native plants into the landscape, including Garry Oak and associated species.
Over the last 25 years, Brenda has instructed community education classes in native plant gardening, native plant propagation, and wildflower identification, plus she has given numerous talks and workshops to the general public on gardening with native plants. She is currently the Senior Vegetation Specialist with the Ministry of Environment in the Terrestrial Conservation Science Section where she works on recovery of rare plants, and is a Professional Agrologist.
Brenda took over when Ted Lea retired from the Ministry of Environment. Here’s what Ted has to say about Brenda: “I had the great pleasure of working with Brenda for more than five years at the BC Ministry of Environment, and we were co-chairs of the GOERT Plants at Risk RIG. Brenda is renowned for her organizational skills and for her incredible knowledge of plants and native plant gardening, but what always impressed me most about her was the wide network of individuals she maintained contact with in the botanical field and beyond, and especially how well she got along with people. Her cooperative nature leads to many successes in achieving results that many other people could not achieve. As well, we dealt with a very large volume of plant species at risk, province wide, in terms of recovery strategies, status reports and advice to others, and without Brenda’s organizational skills, it would have been very difficult to keep pace.”
Dave Fraser, a biologist with the Species & Ecosystems at Risk Section of the BC Ministry of Environment says, “I’ve known Brenda since first year university, and I knew her laugh for several months before I actually knew who produced it – it’s distinctive, infectious and the only thing not low key about Brenda! She was the only grad student in the department who wrote a plan for her thesis work that was specific to the day that she would complete her work and defend her thesis. She did it, and submitted the final draft the week that the original schedule said she would – and that would come as no surprise to anyone who has worked with her.”
“After her Masters, she got training as a legal secretary, which built on her organizational strengths. From her undergrad days to her graduate school work to today, Brenda has steadily built her expertise in native plants, propagation and cultivation, along with a large body of conservation botany knowledge. When we were looking for a species at risk plant person to join the Ministry of Environment, she was an obvious choice and I was delighted when she joined. She is unfailingly organized, unstintingly generous with her time and willingness to roll up her sleeves and help, and somehow has managed to avoid the limelight – it’s great to see it finally shined on her! Well done and well deserved.”
Brenda says of her work with GOERT: “Having been with GOERT since its inception, I’ve seen many changes over the years, however, the constant has been the drive and passion of those who have continued to be true GOERTies and who have never given up. That’s what makes the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team a wonderful group to be a part of.”