New Environmental Educator Brings Fresh Energy to Buttonwood Nature Center

Mary Claire King, left, works with intern Rachel Nunemaker on analyzing the dissolved oxygen content of water in Red Run Creek as part of Buttonwood’s water quality analysis program. King is the Watershed Science Coordinator at Buttonwood Nature Center.

WAYNESBORO—Buttonwood Nature Center, home of The Institute has a new faculty member, Mary Claire King, who joined the staff last November as the full-time Watershed Science Coordinator and Environmental Educator. 

King works with local organizations and student groups in stream studies, water quality monitoring, macroinvertebrate studies, and educational outreach activities. 

“Mary Claire’s first six months on the job have been jam-packed with activities ranging from installing wildlife cameras to teaching environmental programs,” said Tracy Holliday, Buttonwood’s executive director.

King supervises Buttonwood’s Water Striders, a water quality monitoring group for middle and high school students, where she has recruited and trained new members. 

She also recruited and trained new ‘citizen scientists’—stream quality monitors who work along with Antietam Watershed Association (AWA) to track water quality around the region. King recently joined the AWA board of directors.

In another community partnership, King will work with Franklin County Conservation District on a stream water quality monitoring project to measure the impact of cattle exclusion fencing.

To further her professional development, King enrolled in the Penn State Master Watershed Steward program where she is learning about local natural history and water resources.

This spring, King co-supervised Buttonwood’s spring intern, Gracie French, a student at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. French will study environmental science at Juniata college this fall. 

“We were so glad to learn that Gracie’s time at Buttonwood and the projects she engaged with here helped her solidify her career goals in environmental studies and stewardship,” King said.

In addition to watershed activities, King teaches a variety of hands-on educational programs and is working to create new offerings on the nature center property. 

“I have loved my time with Buttonwood so far,” King said. “I have been able to meet and befriend many members of the local community while also spreading awareness of environmental appreciation and stewardship. 

“I look forward to diving into the ever-growing opportunities offered by Buttonwood Nature Center as it continues to develop—both for myself as a professional, and for the community as a whole.”

“Mary Claire has quickly become a key member of Buttonwood’s staff, jumping into her role with enthusiasm and energy,” Holliday said. “Her care for environmental stewardship is evident and contagious as she shares with community friends of all ages. Her involvement will help propel Buttonwood’s activities as we bring our community nature center to life and continue to fulfill the organization’s mission—guiding the people of the Cumberland Valley region to become stewards of their natural and cultural worlds.”

King holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech in wildlife conservation and a master’s degree in environmental education from Goshen College, Indiana. 

Formerly an environmental educator and supervisor at the Montessori School of Johns Island in Charleston, SC, King also worked in youth outreach at the New River Land Trust (NRLT) in Blacksburg, Va. where she was involved with stream water investigations, contributed to an observational biological inventory, created a Virginia Tech bird guide, assessed parameters for science and history relevance for NRLT programs, led bird walks and created outreach fliers.

In addition, King served with the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Wildlife Society and is Project Learning Tree, Project Wet, and Aquatic Wild certified.

Buttonwood Nature Center provides year-round programming for school children, as well as a full slate of community learning activities and public events for all ages. 

For more information about the nature center, visit

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