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Forever an Otter: Honoring the Life of Katie Lannon

Head shot of Katie Lannon
"My passion is to facilitate moments where people get caught in awe of the natural world and feel compelled to protect it." - Katie Lannon, 2017

On the evening of January 14th 2020, CSUMB’s otter raft lost a valuable member, Katie Lannon. Katie was an alumna of the CSUMB science community, earning her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy (ESTP) in 2009.

As an undergraduate, Ms. Lannon held a concentration in Science Education and served as a seasonal instructor with the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS). Her superior dedication and hard work led to a full time position as the Lead Seasonal Instructor with VWS in 2010. MacKenzie Bubel, Katie’s close friend and college roommate, remembers Katie’s remarkable teaching abilities fondly, using her nickname.

“She was a natural teacher and had a way of exposing both children and adults to the natural beauty of the world. She would take me on nature walks and explain small and perfectly evolved nuances between animals and plants that I never noticed before...KT was an ecologist at heart, as was I. We were both marooned on an island of logic and equations, but at least we had each other.”
Katie and MacKenzie at graduation

Katie went on to serve as a Field Biologist with VWS, where she spent her time tracking California condors and educating visitors throughout Big Sur about condor recovery. Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director of the VWS, recently reflected on Katie’s contributions in Big Sur:

“Katie Lannon was an outstanding educator who excelled in working with youth in outdoor settings. Katie first volunteered to help reintroduce California condors to the wild, but we then hired her to lead educational programs for youth; she even worked in the front office when we really needed the help. Katie was always up for a challenge and took great pleasure in working with the toughest kids, the ones that really need support the most. She will be greatly missed.”

Despite continuing on to several other positions in her professional life, Katie was drawn to educating the students who followed her at CSUMB. During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Katie supported the California Transect field course alongside CSUMB professors Dr. Susan Alexander and Dr. Fred Watson.

Katie on California Transect field trip
“We have spent many weeks with Katie camping, learning, and exploring central California and the Eastern Sierra as part of the 15-day California Transect field course at CSUMB. Katie was a student in the class in 2008 and volunteered as a teaching assistant in 2010 and 2011. Katie was always a joy to be around. Her love of life, people, and nature was infectious! Whether encouraging students on long hikes, leading data collection efforts, or supervising daily camp duties, she had contagious energy, an inspiring work ethic, and overall enthusiasm for learning that spread to everyone around her. Some of our best memories of the Eastern Sierra are from the ‘Katie years’. We miss her greatly.”

Katie was known for her love of adventure, passion for plants, and her kind heart. Katrine Hinke, classmate and friend of Katie, described her as a truly exceptional individual:

“Katie was quite remarkable, indeed...she’s proven to be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met - from goat herding in Ireland, to educating the masses on California Condors in Big Sur. No one word could describe her, and she brought life and laughter wherever she went.”

There is no doubt that Katie Lannon left a lasting impact on everyone she ever met. She made friends in many places through her travels, and was a loyal companion. Monica Galligan, professor and friend of Katie’s, took a moment to describe her extraordinary spirit:

“Katie made every minute count. She reveled in adventure, seeking new experiences and appreciating every aspect of life. She took great joy in fostering others' love for the natural world, and in helping young people learn. Katie was an extremely thoughtful, caring, and devoted friend.”

On behalf of CSUMB and the College of Science, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to those who cherished Katie Lannon - her family, friends, former classmates, and colleagues. To learn more about Katie’s remarkable life, take a moment to read more on this web page created in her honor.

Katie in a rock hole
“She will be missed deeply by many people. A true testament to how great she was.” Megan Bassett, friend of Katie Lannon

Applied Environmental Science

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