Staff Spotlight: Sarah Hamilton, WeedWise Specialist & CWMA Coordinator

Sarah Hamilton, WeedWise Specialist & CWMA Coordinator

Get to know the WeedWise program, through our people!

The success of the WeedWise program is in great part due to the hard work and dedication of our staff.  If you have ever called the office or stopped by for assistance with your weed problems, you have undoubtedly worked with one of our hard-working employees.  If  you’ve ever wondered what our program is all about, we first recommend checking our ABOUT, our HISTORY and our STAFF pages to fill in many of the gaps.  But we know you want more!  So we are continuing our Staff Spotlight feature to give you the opportunity to get to know our staff better.  So take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the people behind our program.

20 questions you’ve always wanted to ask WeedWise Specialist, Sarah Hamilton.

Q1.  What is your favorite thing about working at the WeedWise program?

A1.  I enjoy working with landowners and teaching them about the impacts of invasive plants and weed control.  I also love seeing sites that were overrun with weeds come back to life!

Q2.  If you had to choose a different career what would it be?

A2.  If I had to leave the district, I would open a native plant nursery.  I just love getting dirty and watching plants grow, and I have a small backyard nursery now that wants to grow.

Q3.  What is your favorite place in Clackamas County?

A3.  Most of my work is in the Sandy River watershed, and I just adore heading up to Mt. Hood to explore the trails and natural areas. There is great hiking, biking, and wildlife up on the mountain.

Q4.  If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be?

A4.  I have been fortunate to visit a lot of fascinating places, from Alaska to Southeast Asia.  Last winter my family and I took a trip to Costa Rica which was a dream come true. More than anywhere, I want to explore the South American rainforest, with all of the bugs and snakes that come with it.

Q5.  What invasive weed do you think has the greatest impact on Clackamas County?

A5.  That’s tough. The weed having the greatest impact right now is probably blackberry because it’s so widespread. It’s altering both wildlife and human habitats in very profound ways. There are a lot of weeds which have the potential to have similarly dire impacts and which we are working to keep under tabs. Garlic mustard is one that comes to mind as a potential game-changer.

Q6.  What book has influenced you most?

A6.  When I was in high-school I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  The book had a huge impact on my world view. Other greats: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

Q7.  What has been your greatest challenge working for the WeedWise program?

A7.  For the first two years at my position I struggled with the amount of screen time necessary at my position.  Prior to starting here I was spending a lot more time in the field.  Recently I’ve really begun to enjoy the work I do both inside and out.

Q8.  Pancakes, waffles, or French toast?

A8.  I am gluten intolerant, but an amazing gluten-free French toast is where it’s at. Especially with some sliced strawberries and real maple syrup.

Q9.  What is your favorite time of year and why?

A9.  I was an autumn baby, and I love that time of year, especially in Oregon.  We have great summers, but our early autumn cannot be beat. From the end of August until the rains start.

Q10.  Who is your hero?

A10.  My heroes include Jane Goodall and Mahatma Gandhi for their courage and strength in moving mountains. Michael Franti is also a hero, for his courage in using his humanity and vulnerability to connect to people.

Q11.  What is your favorite native plant and why?

A11.  So many to choose from… Of course, trilliums scream spring when the forests are still cold and grey. Alder creates amazing forests very quickly of landslides, road beds, and other wastelands. Wild ginger with it’s orchid-like flowers hiding under heart shaped leaves and the amazing tiger lily are also fantastic. And then there’s the gorgeous Western mountain dogwood, with big beautiful blooms to cover a hillside, and drupes that feed the birds in the winter. You pick.

Q12.  If you could have any special power, what would it be?

A12.  The power to protect our natural areas from degradation and loss of diversity.

Q13.  Why should folks care about invasive weeds?

A13.  Invasive weeds have a permanent impact on the health and function of our environments.  They cause the loss of diversity, of animals and plants which are so crucial and fascinating.  Future humans will be looking at a much more homogeneous landscape if we don’t reign in our invasive plants and prevent new introductions.

Q14.  What activities or hobbies do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A14.  I have a touring bike, a kayak, and some fantastic hiking boots to carry me away on adventures during weekends.  I also love to travel to new and fascinating places.  When I’m not adventuring, I enjoy playing with clay, both in the ceramics studio and in my garden.

Q15.  What WeedWise activity or project are you most excited about in the coming year?

A15.  I have spent the last 2 years working with the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council on a Policeman’s Helmet infestation along the Salmon River near Welches.  I’m excited to be seeing big results with far fewer plants found than just a couple of years ago. Policeman’s helmet had the potential to critically harm salmon species along the river, as it contributes to high erosion potential and low water quality.

Q16.  If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be?

A16.  I would be a rockin’ chair. Because I rock, but I’m also a little old fashioned. 😉

Q17.  What invasive weed do you think is the most difficult to manage?

A17.  Italian arum (Arum italicum) is proving to be extraordinarily difficult to manage. People move it around because the leaves are quite beautiful.  Apparently ants may also be contributing to its movement in the landscape. But there are no known controls; it doesn’t seem to respond to herbicides, produces tiny bulbils which prevent it from being controlled through manual means, and does not respond to mowing or cultivation.

WeedWise Specialist, Sarah Hamilton, reviewing a large Goatsrue (Galega officianlis) infestation

Q18.  If you could live in a different era what would it be?

A18.  I wouldn’t choose another era. Human rights, women’s right, and personal freedoms are at a better place now than they have ever been.  Of course, we still have a long way to go. So I guess if I could live in a different era, it would be in the future.

Q19.  Name one thing that most people don’t know about you.

A19.  I am an active member of an insight meditation sangha in Portland.

Q20.  What do you think is the most often overlooked aspect of responsible weed management?

A20.  Prevention! The best way to manage invasive plants is to keep them out of yards and natural areas in the first place. And the best way to do that is to keep them out of nurseries, to educate the public, and to clean equipment so they aren’t tracked around the landscape.

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