RACHAEL RIFFEE of Berrett has done taxidermy work as a volunteer for Piney Run Park since 1987. She has mounted about 30 birds and several mammals for the park's nature center.
Organization's comments: "Her work is excellent," said Elaine Sweitzer, a naturalist at Piney Run Park. "She just has a different approach."
She said Ms. Riffee likes to pose the birds and animals in natural positions. When she is mounting a fox, she gives the nature BTC center staff a choice of several realistic poses. That can be helpful in cases where the animal must fit into a display case of a certain size, Ms. Sweitzer said.
"She's very considerate, and we can really work with her," Ms. Sweitzer said. "We could never be that picky with anyone else."
L She added, "She's kind of morbid in a real fun kind of way."
She said Ms. Riffee had made herself a set of false teeth cast from real coyote teeth, which she can pop into her mouth when she wants to surprise someone or get a laugh by flashing a coyote grin.
"This girl is a genius. She should be working for Steven Spielberg."
Volunteer's comments: When it comes to taxidermy, Ms. Riffee said, "I love motion." She prefers to mount birds and animals in action positions, such as preening or flying.
Soon, she hopes, she will prepare a triple mount of a great horned owl swooping down upon a rat snake that is eating a rat.
"That's what intrigues me -- having serious drama going on," she said.
Volunteer's background: Ms. Riffee, 23, is studying photography the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is fascinated by nature and anatomy, and has drawn and painted animals for years, she said.
"I want to get into filmmaking," she said.
Her taxidermy skills have carried over into special-effects work. She uses her knowledge of anatomy to create moving animal puppets used in films.
Ms. Riffee is now making a film featuring a black Labrador dog in the role of Satan. Because the canine actor is very gentle, Ms. Riffee had to create a dog model for the snarling scenes.
She worked on the model for about six weeks. She purchased a real dog skull. Around it she modeled a head out of latex rubber, metal, fiberglass and fur. She also made two dog forelegs.
"The lips move. The eyes move. Each toe moves independently," she said. "It was my goal to create the most realistic, anatomically correct dog that I could."
In addition to her work with Piney Run Park, Ms. Riffee was active in the project to restore Bloomfield Manor near Sykesville. She is also active with the Friendship Baptist Church.
To nominate someone as Volunteer of the Week, call 751-7900 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nominations may
be faxed to the office at 751-7916.