By Melissa Ramos, Communications Manager
We at GGAS are pleased to announce that our own Clay Anderson (Youth Programs Manager and the head of our award winning Eco-Education program) is being celebrated as one of Bay Nature’s 2021 Local Heroes! Today, Clay was named Bay Nature’s 2021 Environmental Educator. His lifetime of service in environmental conservation and environmental education is both impressive and deeply important for many reasons. Clay’s work positively impacts the lucky kids who learn from him in GGAS’s Eco-Education programs. He inspires youth of color to pursue eventual careers in environmental conservation and to take on the vital work of environmental stewardship. He also positively impacts those who take his classes at the Rotary Nature Center, go on bird walks with him, hang out with him… and those of us who are fortunate enough to work with him on a daily basis, like I am.
Clay’s existence in environmental conservation spaces is very important. He is one of the few people of color who has made a name for himself in environmental circles. He is a rarity among birders and naturalists alike. The fact that he is self taught is also incredibly meaningful; his existence brings to us a story of tenacity and passion and endless drive to learn more about and connect with the natural world. We can all learn a lot from Clay.
He is also a professional artist who became a naturalist and birder as a child, although he didn’t get his first pair of binoculars until graduating from high school. Clay worked his way through San Jose City College, then transferred to San Jose State University, graduating with a B.A. in Drawing and Painting.
He joined GGAS in 2017. He previously worked with a number of environmental education organizations, including California State Parks and Recreation, East Bay Regional Park District, and The Oakland Museum.
Over the summer, we featured Clay’s biography in our quarterly Gull magazine. Eric Schroeder, GGAS’s current board president, wrote a wonderful piece about Clay’s life and love of the outdoors. You can read Eric’s piece by clicking here.
Clay has worked with Bay Nature, too—check out his article on where shorebirds sleep at night here. If you’d like to see Clay’s award feature on Bay Nature’s website, please click here. And mark your calendars for April 11th and 13th, 2021. On those days, Bay Nature will celebrate Clay and the other 2021 Local Heroes in their online awards ceremony.
I’ll end my celebration of Clay with a fond memory I have of him.
Right before Covid-19 shut down the world as we know it, Clay and I went to an environmental education conference in Marin. He was kind enough to pick me up from the Berkeley Bart station on a dreary weekday and drive me to the conference. I’m still a New Yorker at heart and don’t know how to drive yet (maybe I’ll learn in my 30s). We spent the car ride chatting and listening to jazz.
When we finally got to Marin, the dreary sky opened up. There was a cool, crisp breeze, and sun poked through the clouds overhead. We were indoors for a lot of the conference, but we took breaks outside together. At one point, we walked back over to where he parked his car and looked over at a nearby lake, teeming with birds and wildlife. In the brief moment of our break, Clay taught me not only about the birds flying around the water, but the bugs crawling on the rocks, the little critters pacing underfoot, and the plants growing nearby. He is a wellspring of knowledge.
Clay’s calm in that moment was tangible. He was perfectly content to be outdoors and communing with nature, just by standing and observing the landscape. He communicated his deep love of the earth through teaching me about the earth’s ebb and flow. It was a five minute lesson but a profound one. What Clay taught me that day was this: Our planet has so much to offer us. We just need to pay attention.
About Melissa: Melissa Ramos is GGAS’s Communications Manager. She is a second generation Dominican-American and native New Yorker who has called the Bay Area home for almost 7 years. Her favorite birds are Sanderlings and Mourning Doves. If you have a blog you’d like to share with Melissa, please email her your 800-1200 essays at firstname.lastname@example.org.