Stacey Yankee, 47, moved from Michigan to Maryland in 2011 to lead the James and Anne Robinson Nature Center, situated on 18 acres of park land in Columbia. Between 60,000 and 80,000 people visit the center each year to explore its exhibits, programs, planetarium and outdoor trails. Here, Yankee shares three little-known facts about her life.
Her first car was a hot rod. Yankee grew up outside of Detroit, surrounded by classic cars. “My dad worked for General Motors as an engineer,” she says. “He always had fast sports cars … a ’32 Ford, a ’40 Ford, various Camaros in pieces to [eventually] refurbish.” As a result, Yankee frequented car swap meets and drag races as a child and teen. Her first car in high school? A 1967 Camaro, of course. “All the guys would want to race me,” she says. And because she had a fast car and knew how to drive it, she always won.
She was once certified to fight forest fires – and has her captain’s license. After graduating from Central Michigan University, Yankee took a job with Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. In addition to leading hikes and working in the monument’s visitor center, she learned how to put out forest fires. Then, while working as a naturalist at a Michigan nature center, she gained her captain’s license so she could lead powerboat tours of inland lakes. “I tell my staff, ‘Any training is good training,’” she says. “If you have an opportunity to learn anything, learn it.”
She is a skilled taxidermist. Yankee learned how to prepare and stuff a mouse as part of a college natural history class. She later worked for a taxidermist in Michigan, where she stuffed and mounted ducks for hunters, she says. Since then, she has performed taxidermy on everything from owls and raccoons to snakes and woodchucks. She even offers staff training each January so they can stuff or repair animals used for displays and educational programs at the nature center.