(l-r) Marty Talbot, Scott Warthin and Liz Putnam decades after their days at Vassar College.
Marty Talbot’s conservation credentials are seemingly endless: she’s an award-winning biologist, an accomplished author, and her pioneering research has spanned more than 50 years and 60 countries. Marty is also co-founder of the Student Conservation Association
In the mid-1950s, Vassar College Professor A. Scott Warthin suggested that Marty might enjoy assisting fellow Vassar student Liz Cushman – now Liz Putnam – in pursuing the subject of her senior thesis: a “Student Conservation Corps.”
“Liz and I were acquaintances at the time,” Marty recalls. “We’d taken some classes together, passed notes back and forth in a plant science classes.”
Following graduation, the two teamed up and pitched Liz’s concept to the superintendents of Olympic, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier and Yellowstone National Parks. “[Retired National Park Service Director] Horace Albright had written a letter of introduction for Liz. It was like ‘Open Sesame!’”
Olympic and the Tetons were the first to sign on. “When Liz spoke to agency partners, she emphasized needed services. I tried to bring in the education part,” Marty says.
After four years, with SCA’s roots firmly established, Marty left to work with another young ecologist, Lee Talbot. “I met Lee in Washington, DC at the North American Wildlife Conference when we were recruiting for the Student Conservation Program,” she says. “We were married in May of 1959 and went off to Africa.
“I was Lee’s assistant, working on the ecology of the plains in the Serengeti. The animals didn’t pay attention to the political boundaries between what is now Kenya and Tanzania. We worked there for a couple of years, came back to the States and wrote it up.” Over the years, Lee – now a renowned figure in international environmental affairs – and Marty have written 18 books and hundreds of scientific and technical articles.
Marty has won awards from the US Department of the Interior, the Society of Women Geographers and the World Commission on Protected Areas, among others, and she’s lectured around the world. In 2013, Marty received the Explorers Club prestigious Lowell Thomas Medal. She remains fond of SCA.
“I’m very proud of having helped Liz start the Student Conservation Association,” Marty states. “I’m impressed with SCA’s flexibility as it works in different venues and its ongoing ability to adapt to emerging needs across the country.”