Women in Conservation at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Posted on in On the Mountain by Rebekah Smith, Science-Education Outreach Coordinator, & Several Staff Members

The month of March signifies the changing of seasons, spring migration, and a new appreciation for Appalachian ecology. It also represents Women’s History Month, a time to honor our past, present, and future female leaders by celebrating their legacy and working towards building a better future for all women, especially in STEM. Careers in conservation in the United States have been male dominated, with 79% of conservation scientists being male as of 2018, matching similar statistics across most STEM fields. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is unique in that our community consists of majority female staff and trainees. Over the next month, we will be sharing the perspectives of female staff, trainees, and members of the Hawk Mountain community, both past and present.

From founder Rosalie Edge and first gatekeeper Irma Broun to the strong women occupying leadership roles in the organization today, Hawk Mountain represents a model for gender inclusivity and equity for other conservation organizations across the county and abroad. We recognize that there is still much work to be done in this respect, and we are always striving to improve diversity, equity, and inclusivity both at the Sanctuary and elsewhere within the field of conservation. Read our statement here.

Below are some perspectives shared by female staff members at Hawk Mountain about their journeys as women in conservation. We hope to encourage and empower women of all ages to pursue their dreams, persist, and use their voices to change the world for good.

Laurie with a Tagged Broad-winged Hawk

Dr. Laurie Goodrich

Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science

My first month at Hawk Mountain was trial by fire. I was hired as the first staff biologist with a primary focus on science and research.  However, in fall 1984 the first task was the fall migration. I spent 4 days a week on top of the North Lookout identifying and counting migrating raptors and overseeing a team of volunteer counters. There was one other female counter, volunteer Babe Webster. I was very intimidated by the sudden rise to responsibility but did not feel so much that my gender was a hindrance as I felt under the microscope being the new and unknown person. I had recently completed my master’s degree at Rutgers University and had never been to Hawk Mountain before I took the job. Everyone else working full-time had years or decades of experience with Hawk Mountain or with raptors. Of course, I learned quickly and leaned on seasoned volunteers, such as Jim Olmes, and other staff to teach me the basics. I was one of two women working full-time at Hawk Mountain, but every fall we had several female interns and we soon added a female educator, so I did not feel out-numbered at all. Hawk Mountain staff and members were welcoming. 

Other aspects of my job were just up my alley. Living on site, monitoring nesting and wintering birds in forest plots, working with interns to band juncos, and working to get our long-term migration data cleaned up and on the computer so it could be analyzed for trends and assisting with public education on weekends. I also spent one day every weekend in those early years as the ‘naturalist in charge’ of the bookstore. A long-expired tradition of the early days of Hawk Mountain was to have a biologist on site every weekend to answer public questions about birds and natural history. Those quiet days amid the visitors and watching bird feeders in the off season seem a lifetime ago. Although my rise to leader of the count team at Hawk Mountain may have represented the first time a woman oversaw a count site in North America, I never felt my gender held me back. The HMS family has been supportive and accepting of me from day one.

Jamie Dawson and Jane Goodall

Jamie Dawson

Director of Education

I remember presenting one of my first education programs to a school group in the gallery of Hawk Mountain’s Visitor Center. I stood before the students holding up large black and white historical photos depicting the story of the Sanctuary’s genesis. Just as I was holding up the photo of Rosalie Edge dressed in her 1930s high-class attire with a long skirt, dress jacket, hat, elegant white gloves, fashionable dragonfly brooch, and a large hawk perched on her arm, I glanced up into the bookstore balcony of the gallery. There, behind the railing, stood Rosalie’s granddaughter Deborah Edge, watching my presentation. I was star-struck to be in the presence of such a conservation legacy. I took a breath, smiled, and continued telling the students how Rosalie turned an infamous shooting ground into a renowned Sanctuary that has grown to be a global leader in raptor conservation, science, and education. My hope that in hearing this true story and experiencing the magic of the mountain, youth are empowered with the conviction that they too can make a positive difference and find the strength to stand up for what they believe in and protect the natural world, just like Rosalie.


MT on the Beach with a Scope and Binoculars

MT Grob

Bookstore Manager

Hawk Mountain has been an incredible influence on me since I was knee high with pigtails. I remember standing at the feeder windows when an indigo bunting landed on a rock. I've been hooked on birds ever since and was always more interested in exploring a stream or nearby field. My love for the outdoors was a huge factor when it came time to make a career choice. I earned a B.S. in Parks and Recreation, Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. I had several courses in which I was the only female, but never questioned my abilities next to my male classmates. I worked several seasons as a state park ranger, environmental educator, and was the Youth Director at a local YMCA. I've always enjoyed working with young people, so I went back to school and obtained my teaching certification in Bio/General Science from Kutztown University. Of course, life takes unexpected turns, and I ended up working in the hospitality industry for several years. During this time, I was able to continue to my connection with Hawk Mountain by volunteering for almost 15 years. When the opportunity arose to join the staff, I jumped, and I've been sharing my love of the Mountain ever since. I'm most proud of starting the Hawk Mountain Young Birders Club and my position as founding member and director of Frontiers in Ornithology Association.  I am so incredibly lucky and honored to be part of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary community, supporting our raptor conservation mission.  

Mary Holding a Banded American Kestrel Chick

Mary Linkevich

Director of Development

A life-long nature lover, I connected with Hawk Mountain while volunteering as a trail tender for Wildlands Conservancy. At the time, I raised funds for a non-profit drop-out prevention agency, but little did I know I pulled roots alongside a board member at the Sanctuary. When an opening came up for Hawk Mountain’s first public information specialist, Tom Kerr recommended me for the job, I interviewed before it was advertised, and was offered the position.

Now instead of fighting depressing drop-out statistics, I promoted hawks, hiking, scientific discovery, and conservation success stories. I watched scientists band kestrels, game commission officials trap black bears, and met young people from Pennsylvania to Peru, Kazakhstan, and Zimbabwe. I began writing grant proposals, capital campaign materials, and sometimes speeches. I was in heaven.

Today, I’m director of development and continue to share the myriad of Sanctuary stories with supporters. Each and every day has been rewarding. I’m humbled by our donors, learn daily from my colleagues and friends, and am renewed by the Sanctuary and its ever-changing sights and sounds. I’m most proud to promote our great female leaders, from founder Rosalie Edge to my own mentor and friend Dr. Laurie Goodrich. It is my greatest pleasure to play a role in the legacy that is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and be part of its amazing list of women conservationists.

Gigi Romano

Gigi Romano

Communications Specialist

My time at Hawk Mountain only began a few years ago, during my last semester of college. I was on the hunt for a communications internship, and thanks to my friend and now co-worker Tammy Jandrasitz, I was offered an opportunity at the Sanctuary. Fast forward six months, and I was serendipitously brought on full-time as the communications specialist. The creation of my position allowed for a renewed focus on science and education communications, especially in the fast-moving digital world we now live in. A significant part of my job is helping people hear the stories of progress in conservation, and it is encouraging that many of those stories come from hard-working and dedicated young women in the field.

I feel empowered working with so many remarkable women at the Sanctuary, including our staff, volunteers, interns, and trainees. I’m forever inspired by the history of women who have fostered Hawk Mountain’s growth and success, and I’m filled with hope every time that I get to share a story of an up-and-coming female conservationist making waves in this male-dominated field.

Annie with a Tagged Hawk

Annie Trexler

Development Assistant

I began my conservation career in 1981 by serving as the Hawk Mountain visitor center ambassador, responsible for front desk operations, membership, and fielding phone calls.  Working in conservation was not my lifelong dream at that time, but it very soon became my lifelong passion.

Even though my work was administrative, I found that general knowledge about birds and nature was something I needed to improve in order to do my best here on the Mountain.  I attended educational classes that were offered here and was completely immersed in the joy that I found in nature. 

Many years later, I am still completely enjoying this rewarding environment both here on the Mountain and by volunteering with a team of raptor banders from the Fish and Wildlife Service on my days off.  We are all working towards conserving birds of prey as we collect and report information about the birds that we band to use in monitoring population, migration, and overall species health. I am honored to be a woman in conservation!


Stay tuned for more content throughout the month of March, with additional perspectives from women in the Hawk Mountain Community.

Read more about women in conservation and STEM: