Observing and Preserving

By Ari Karpel

Originally published on Advocate.com September 17 2010 3:05 AM ET

 Pretty much every aspect of Jen Vanderhoof’s life is connected to the outdoors. There’s scuba diving: “I learned in Puget Sound,” says Vanderhoof, who lives in Seattle. “And I think that diving in British Columbia is unbeatable.”

Underwater photography: “I waited until I had 150 dives logged before I started doing underwater photography. I wanted to be an extremely efficient diver with solid buoyancy control before adding a camera to my workload.”

She’s been a triathlete since 2007. “In 2009 I completed my first iron-distance race at Ironman Canada,” she reports, two days after completing her second Ironman competition, in Penticton, B.C..

And with “tri-season,” as she calls it, wrapping up, it’s time to get out for some backpacking. “My primary backpacking pal and I both enjoy photography, so we don’t move along quickly,” she says, “but we sure do stop and smell and photograph the flowers.” Being able to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature (the photos on this page and the three that follow were taken by Vanderhoof) is the point of so much of what Vanderhoof does, even professionally. As a senior ecologist with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Water and Land Resources Division, her work changes every year, but one constant has been the Salmon Watcher program, which trains volunteers in salmon identification, to promote salmon spawning and migration. She has completed an ecological assessment of Soos Creek Trail Park, to “help manage this amazing wetland complex for its ecological value and not just as a recreational trail.” Vanderhoof, who holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University, also sits on an advisory group for Washington State’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. “2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity,” Vanderhoof declares. “And yet almost know one knows it! That drives me crazy.”

None of her work — or her non-work activities for that matter — is particularly connected to the LGBT community, but Vanderhoof is comfortably out in every situation. “I feel fortunate that I don’t have to hide who I am in work or play. I am just myself and happy to be myself,” she says. “I’m grateful that the professionals I work with are a very open-minded and accepting bunch, and many of my colleagues are also gay.”

The larger community in Seattle is so geared toward fostering the simple things we can all do to help reduce our footprint on the planet, such as recycling, composting and bicycle commuting, that it makes finding likeminded folks easy. “Many of my friends, gay and straight, enjoy the same activities I do,” says Vanderhoof, who grew up in Missouri and Kansas. “And when you enjoy diving or backpacking or kayaking, I think you naturally want to see those environments taken care of, preserved, unharmed.”JEN VANDERHOOF EPIACTIS x390  | ADVOCATE.COMJEN VANDERHOOF FRIED EGG JELLYFISH x560  | ADVOCATE.COMPuget Sound rockfish x560 | advocate.com