Meet Docents of the Quarter Suzanne McAllister and Erica Peterson, residents of Rancho Santa Fe and graduates of the class of 2008. After years of raising their kids and all the time and energy that goes into that, Suzanne and Erica found themselves with a little extra time as their kids leave home and start their own life journeys. As passionate native plant gardeners and neighbors of the lagoon, becoming involved with the Conservancy seemed like a natural fit.

Suzanne McAllister

A prankster by nature, with a great sense of humor, it seemed only fitting that I called Suzanne on April 1st, which I learned was her favorite day of the year. She recalled the many pranks she had played on her two daughters when they were young, and lamented the lack of April Fools victims in her home these days.

A native of Connecticut, she remembers being a nature lover as a young child, with lazy summers collecting polliwogs from a nearby pond, and helping her parents in the garden. “I still love the outdoors, and am a compulsive gardener,” noted Suzanne. “My motto is edible or native, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with that,” she added. A meticulous planner, whether it’s for a trip to Europe or preparing for a docent walk, Suzanne seems to have an insatiable interest and curiosity for just about everything, which serves her well as she learns about the lagoon, and its diversity of life forms.

“I really enjoy volunteering at a place that is so flexible...this allows me to pursue my many other interests, yet it is something I care deeply about and feel like I am making a difference,” she said. In addition to leading walks, Suzanne spent six months in 2009 assisting with educational outreach materials and research projects.

Erica Peterson

While taking conversational Spanish at MiraCosta College, Erica noticed a flyer on the bulletin board announcing the Conservancy’s upcoming docent training. Having recently received her Elementary Education Certification, it seemed an interesting way to put her newly minted teaching skills to work.

"I joined the docent program to lead the kids on walks, but I didn’t realize I would also become part of a wonderfully interesting community of people whom I really enjoy spending time with,” noted Erica. “I also look forward to the monthly speakers...there is always something new to learn, and the speakers are all so knowledgeable,” added Erica.

A mother of three, with one child at UC Berkeley, another working on Wall Street, and her youngest getting ready to graduate from Canyon Crest Academy next year, Erica is moving into a new phase of her life. In addition to volunteering at the Conservancy, Erica has also been substitute teaching. But she acknowledges that at times it can be tough to be "just the substitute” teacher, and welcomes a morning at the lagoon, where the kids are eager to be in a new environment and ready to learn something new. In the fall of 2009, Erica put her undergraduate degree in English to work, and helped edit parts of the 2009 Docent Manual.


Docent of the Quarter
Monthly Meetings

  Pied-billed Grebe (Photo: C. Mayne)