In Remembrance: Bob Moeller

Back in the 1970’s, a visit to the Sharon Audubon Center made an impression on me that lasted a lifetime. As an eager young naturalist, I attended the Sharon Audubon Festival, a two-day feast of presentations and field walks by experts in plants, insects, birds, and other branches of natural history. In session after session, we were hosed with fascinating information. I lapped it all up, but one experience stood out: a walk led by the Director, Bob Moeller, along the Borland Trail. It was unhurried and very quiet. Bob simply stopped at intervals and read short passages from the nature writing of Hal Borland, for whom the trail is named. Bob’s demeanor invited us to relax, listen, observe, and reflect in the same way that Hal might have done in the same place. We tapped our own awareness rather than tracking someone else’s. I never forgot it.

Almost forty years later I became, in turn, a Director of the Sharon Audubon Center. On my first day, I opened a closet door and found a yellowed, typewritten sheet tacked to the inside with instructions from Bob about how to prepare a mammal skull. The instructions were simple, clear, and ended with “That’s about it.” It was like hearing his voice all over again.

With Bob’s passing, tributes have come into Sharon Audubon from former interns and staff, now conservation professionals themselves, who had the privilege of working with him here. All credit him with influencing their careers. Scott Heth, one of Bob’s successors as Center Director, recalls: “Bob mentored countless young naturalists. He encouraged people to do the work to find the answers to questions. I have fond memories of walking the woods with Bob when I was very young...I knew then that I wanted to do what he did.” Former intern (now Ph.D) Sandy DeSimone wrote from California: “I loved his teaching style, based in nature education theory that was so far removed from the canned nature walks I had been on in the past. Bob was undoubtedly one of the strongest influences on my career path.” Corky Potter went from working with Bob to founding Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center at Penn State. Its entrance has the motto “Keep on Discovering,” inspired by Bob’s way of “not telling, but of asking questions to unfold the essence of the world around us.” Art Gingert of West Cornwall recalls “Bob was magnificently trained as an old school naturalist…but the best thing is that he was a superb teacher, always making time—often on the spot—to listen, entertain a query and then graciously share his knowledge.” Rock Moeslein in Virginia recalls that Bob taught “the importance of appreciating volunteers and people for all that they brought to the Center and the community.” (Amen to that!) He adds that the mentoring went on for another 48 years! Tom Mullin, writing from Maine, noted that in addition to leadership at Sharon Audubon, Bob “went on to have instrumental leadership for the region…the memory of his kindness and vision are ones that I recall with deep fondness.” Tom recalls other things too: “I have some wicked funny stories of Bob. I am sure many of us do. I hope I can make the Celebration of Life planned for later in the year.” Hope you do, Tom!

Without doubt, this is just a small sample of the impact Bob Moeller had on a generation of naturalists, scientists, and conservationists. He put Sharon Audubon on the national map as a source of excellence. As we welcome this year’s interns, just starting their own careers, we’re humbled and inspired by the challenge of living up to Bob’s example.

Maybe we’ll take them for a walk on the Borland Trail.


Eileen Fielding

Director, Sharon Audubon Center

Latest News

Inspiring artistic inspiration at the Art Nest in Wassaic

Left to right: Emi Night (Lead Educator), Luna Reynolds (Intern), Jill Winsby-Fein (Education Coordinator).

Natalia Zukerman

The Wassaic Art Project offers a free, weekly drop-in art class for kids aged K-12 and their families every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Art Nest, as it’s called, is a light, airy, welcoming space perched on the floor of the windy old mill building where weekly offerings in a variety of different media lead by professional artists offer children the chance for exploration and expression. Here, children of all ages and their families are invited to immerse themselves in the creative process while fostering community, igniting imaginations, and forging connections.

Emi Night began as the Lead Educator at The Art Nest in January 2024. She studied painting at Indiana University and songwriting at Goddard College in Vermont and is both a visual artist and the lead songwriter and singer in a band called Strawberry Runners.

Keep ReadingShow less
Weaving and stitching at Kent Arts Association

A detail from a fabric-crafted wall mural by Carlos Biernnay at the annual Kent Arts Association fiber arts show.

Alexander Wilburn

The Kent Arts Association, which last summer celebrated 100 years since its founding, unveiled its newest group show on Friday, May 11. Titled “Working the Angles,” the exhibition gathers the work of textile artists who have presented fiber-based quilts, landscapes, abstracts, and mural-sized illustrations. The most prominently displayed installation of fiber art takes up the majority of the association’s first floor on South Main Street.

Bridgeport-based artist Carlos Biernnay was born in Chile under the rule of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but his large-scale work is imbued with fantasy instead of suffering. His mix of influences seems to include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s popular German libretto “The Magic Flute” — specifically The Queen of the Night — as well as Lewis Carol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” The Tudor Court, tantalizing mermaids and exotic flora.

Keep ReadingShow less
Let there be Night: How light pollution harms migrating birds
Alison Robey

If last month’s solar eclipse taught me anything, it’s that we all still love seeing cool stuff in the sky. I don’t think we realize how fast astronomical wonders are fading out of sight: studies show that our night skies grow about 10% brighter every year, and the number of visible stars plummets as a result. At this rate, someone born 18 years ago to a sky with 250 visible stars would now find only 100 remaining.

Vanishing stars may feel like just a poetic tragedy, but as I crouch over yet another dead Wood Thrush on my morning commute, the consequences of light pollution feel very real. Wincing, I snap a photo of the tawny feathers splayed around his broken neck on the asphalt.

Keep ReadingShow less