Manomet staff and the birding community mourned this month when Betty Petersen – one of the first Manomet Bird Observatory volunteers and a long-time employee and friend of the organization – passed away in Boston.
“She loved birds, but maybe more, she loved helping people to appreciate birds and science and conservation,” said Banding Director Trevor Lloyd-Evans, who had known and worked with Petersen since the early 1970s.
Petersen became involved in bird surveys and the banding program at about the time Manomet was founded in 1969. Over the decades she worked and volunteered in a variety of capacities. She was working in the marketing department when a new program called the Birders’ Exchange grew out of the landmark Woods Hole symposium. The program delivered used scopes and birding equipment to Latin American communities that would not have otherwise been able to afford them. Karen Grey, former assistant director at the Manomet Center, remembered Petersen’s immediate passion for the program.
“It was a perfect fit for her interests … she was so incredibly devoted to Birder’s Exchange. She was so devoted to the people who were getting the grants,” Grey said. “Betty was such an important person, on so many levels.”
Petersen eventually joined the American Birding Association to remain with the Birders’ Exchange when the program was transitioned. She continued to lead it until she suffered a heart attack in late May. She passed away on June 4.
In recent years Petersen continued to visit the Manomet headquarters and the banding laboratory, especially to introduce visitors from Latin America.
Petersen “had a very big impact through bird tours, Birders’ Exchange, Nuttall Ornithological Club, American Birding Association, Mass Audubon, Manomet and a web of friends that she had made all over the world,” Lloyd-Evans said. “For those who had the privilege of knowing her, she would want us to be sad for a very brief while, help [her husband] Wayne and the family through the next unhappy period, then venture outside with some interesting people and go birding.”
– Dave McGlinchey