Couple honored for conservation education work

Published 11:59 am Saturday, August 11, 2018

Jimmy and Sierra Stiles of Andalusia were awarded the Conservation Communicator of the Year Award at the 2018 Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards banquet last weekend.

The Stiles are known statewide in the conservation education community for their work. Since 1991, they have communicated with hundreds of thousands of people, emphasizing the importance of understanding and protecting wildlife and related natural resources. They conduct biological inventories across the state at the Auburn University Environmental Institute. When they are not in the field, they spend much of their time teaching people of all ages about Alabama’s amazing biodiversity.

Jimmy Stiles said his dad was a biologist.

“So of course, I grew up liking biology,” he said.

He began teaching as part of his job as a naturalist at Oak Mountain State Park, and fell in love with it.

“So I kind of fell in to teaching people about the natural world,” he said.

His wife’s mom also was a biology teacher.

“Sierra ended up teaching with me at Oak Mountain, and we haven’t stopped teaching since,” he said. Jimmy Stiles works for Auburn University, and Sierra Stiles began teaching seventh grade life science at Opelika Middle School this week.

“We’re kinda up here for a while,” he said, adding that his work is flexible, and living in the Auburn-Opelika area will be convenient, as he is working on his PhD in forestry and wildlife.

“I’m actually looking at using prescribed fire a bottomland hardwood forest to try and restore areas that have lots of invasive species on them,” he said. “I’m also looking at how that fire affects the reptile and amphibian communities.”

Airport director Jed Blackwell, Yulista CEO Josh Herren, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, and Yulista Director of Business Development Joseph Parsley. The mayor said Friday was a “red letter day.”

The AWF said of the Stiles, “For 20 years, they have been active members of the Environmental Education Association of Alabama, a non-profit comprised of educators and professionals involved in teaching about the environment. The Stiles are dedicated researchers, while simultaneously realizing the value of communicating the importance of conserving our state’s precious aquatic and terrestrial species.

“The Stiles are true champions for conservation in ways that provide a vital link from the scientific community to the everyday lives of Alabamians. Their experience, passion, and knowledge give them a voice that will continue to be heard for generations.”

Jimmy Stiles said he and his wife also spend most of their free time outdoors, and enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.

“When we’re in Andalusia, we look for fossils in rivers and streams,” he said. “We’re trying to bring that inside into classrooms teaching kids about the natural world.”

The Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) held the banquet, co-sponsored by Alabama Power Company and PowerSouth Energy, at The Marriott Legends at Capitol Hill in Prattville. Gov. Kay Ivey provided opening remarks and assisted with presentations.

of the awards.