Three Richland County conservationists received accolades Tuesday from the S.C. Association of Conservation Districts (SCACD) at its Conservation Partnership Conference in Charleston.
The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RSWCD) nominated the three award winners for their outstanding contributions to natural resource protection and conservation education:
- Mary Burts – Conservation Commissioner of the Year
- Jamison Browder – Conservation Teacher of the Year
- Mary Hannah Lindsay – Conservation District Employee of the Year
Conservation Commissioner of the Year
Burts, who is RSWCD commissioner, was named the state’s Conservation Commissioner of the Year.
Conservation commissioners provide leadership and oversight for their districts’ conservation mission and programs. After joining RSWCD as an associate commissioner (a non-voting adviser) in 2009, Burts was elected as full commissioner in 2020.
During her time with the district, Burts has served in many roles, including classroom conservation program presenter; Farm/City Week coordinator; Arbor Day champion; science fair and conservation contest judge; and Seed Sanctuary and Envirothon volunteer. A lifelong educator whose specialties are environmental education and biology, Burts’ priority as commissioner is to increase support for conservation education initiatives at schools across Richland County.
“Burts is a strong and tireless advocate for environmental education,” said RSWCD Chairman Kenny Mullis. “She has helped RSWCD carry out dozens of conservation programs in schools and communities over the years, and our district is a better and greener place because of her service and dedication.”
Conservation Teacher of the Year
Jamison Browder, an early childhood and Lower School science resource teacher at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, is the state’s Conservation Teacher of the Year. With more than 17 years of experience in education, Browder is a leader in the field of early childhood environmental learning and has presented his work on garden-based learning and sustainability to international audiences.
Browder believes in student-driven, project-based learning and provides authentic educational experiences through school gardening and other outdoor, nature-focused activities. Browder is working to revitalize the greenhouse at Heathwood Hall and teaching students to grow native plants there. He is also expanding the school’s edible fruit forest and recently received a Conservation Education Mini-Grant from RSWCD to support this work.
“We are so proud to have Dr. Browder as a member of our early childhood and Lower School faculty,” said Stephanie Scanlon, Heathwood Hall’s head of early childhood and Lower School. “His hands-on approach to teaching science and his commitment to environmental stewardship fit so perfectly with our educational values. We are thrilled to see his talents recognized at the state level.”
Along with being an RSWCD associate commissioner and Slow Food Columbia board member, Browder manages the Teachers Who Plant Seeds community on Facebook, which connects teachers worldwide.
Conservation District Employee of the Year
Mary Hannah Lindsay, RSWCD’s community outreach coordinator, is the state’s Conservation District Employee of the Year. Lindsay joined RSWCD in fall 2018 as a student intern while completing her bachelor’s degree in marine and political science at the University of South Carolina. She is now in the final year of her master’s in earth and environmental resources management program.
In 2020, Lindsay launched the County’s Seed Sanctuary program, which provides free vegetable, herb and wildflower seeds to promote food security and pollinator conservation in the community. Her efforts have resulted in two grants totaling $7,500 to support the program. Lindsay and her team of community volunteers have distributed more than 13,000 seed packets to residents, and a new physical location for the Seed Sanctuary will open Tuesday, March 1 at Richland Library Eastover.
In addition, Lindsay has co-authored a publication for teachers and environmental instructors, Educators’ Guide: Where Would We BEE Without Pollinators? She also has expanded the reach of RSWCD’s youth education programs and redesigned branding and marketing materials for RSWCD.
“Hannah’s innovative ideas, communication skills and can-do attitude have dramatically increased RSWCD’s visibility in the community and developed a strong support network of community volunteers and advocates,” said Quinton Epps, Richland County Conservation Division manager.
All three awardees received plaques, and Browder and Lindsay received cash awards from SCACD.
SCACD represents the state’s 46 soil and water conservation districts, which are subdivisions of state government whose boundaries align with those of counties. To learn more, visit www.scacd.org.