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Remembering Ellie Ely, editor of The Volunteer Monitor

(From the e-list, 31 JAN 2012.  Click here to subscribe.)

Hi folks,

I received an email last night, as perhaps did many of you, from Linda Green (URI Watershed Watch), remembering the life and work of Eleanor Ely, editor and driving force behind The Volunteer Monitor. I'm forwarding that message along to all of you (below), to remember Ellie as one of the first people to support and promote the growing field of volunteer monitoring, in its broadest sense.

I had the pleasure of working with Ellie during the 2007 Citizen Science Toolkit Conference here at the Lab of Ornithology, and credit her vision, generosity, and persistence with helping many of us there think beyond "citizen science." Her knowledge of the history of this field, combined with her vision of how transformative these opportunities can be, will continue to have a far-reaching influence (see her article,  Volunteer Monitoring & the Democratization of Science).

More below from Linda Green and Alice Mayio,


Remembering Ellie

Eleanor Ely, longtime editor of The Volunteer Monitor newsletter, passed away on Thursday from ovarian cancer.

Ellie was one of the stalwarts of the volunteer monitoring movement, a prominent leader from its very beginnings. She was the editor and driving force behind The Volunteer Monitor – the voice of volunteer monitoring -- from 1990 to 2010, writing and researching many of the articles herself.  The Volunteer Monitor was the critical link connecting the thousands of diverse members of the volunteer monitoring community.  Ellie’s persistence, patience, and unique editorial insight ensured that her publication was timely and timeless, an invaluable resource for the entire monitoring community.  She had a critical eye for details, researching and thoroughly mastering each newsletter topic – from data management to bacteria monitoring.  Most remarkably, Ellie translated the most arcane bureaucratic doublespeak or scientific technospeak into plain, clearly understandable English.  She cared very much about the newsletter’s technical and editorial quality, and was just as wholly dedicated to the volunteer monitoring movement itself; she knew more about individual volunteer monitoring programs, and their leaders, than any other person in the U.S.  She was always eager to share her knowledge, experience, and connections with others, and to help forward the cause of volunteer environmental monitoring.

Ellie also edited the National Directory of Volunteer Monitoring Programs and proceedings of four national conferences, and wrote or edited a variety of other environmental and science publications for Rhode Island Sea Grant, Delta Publications, Yale University Press, and more.

Ellie had a master’s degree in microbiology and taught technical writing and editing in workshops around the country.  In 2006 she received the Elizabeth J. Fellows Award for outstanding achievement in the field of water quality monitoring, awarded by the National Water Quality Monitoring Council in recognition of her work as editor of The Volunteer Monitor.

This November, when her cancer had returned, Ellie wrote: “After being diagnosed in 2008, I really made a point of living fully, living in the present, feeling alive, trying to appreciate each moment ... I realized also that relationships are the most important thing, and I tried to nurture all my relationships and (hopefully) let my friends and family feel my appreciation and love for them.” One of her strongest wishes at that time was to spend time with all her family members, which she did, they all came to be with her in San Francisco.  Her brother Richard moved from Wisconsin to care for her.  He sent warm, wonderful, descriptive, and poignant updates to a wider community of friends close to Ellie.

In early January, Ellie realized that her treatments were prolonging the inevitable, and in ways that were not what she wanted.  She ended her chemo treatments, still continuing other medications, medical care and hospice, and drew her friends and family closer. Near the end, she enjoyed a week of daily visits to the ocean, reveling in the restorative pleasure of wading in the surf accompanied by her companions.

On January 26, Ellie’s journey in this world ended peacefully. She will be remembered by so many for her gentle humor, her incisive mind, her remarkable writing and editing skills (her attention to detail was legendary among those who wrote articles for The Volunteer Monitor), her constant dedication to the volunteer monitoring community, her strength and courage in facing her illness, and most of all, for her wonderful friendship to those of us who had the privilege to work with her over the years.

Ellie is survived by her close and loving family, brothers Richard and David, sister Liz and several devoted nieces. Letters of condolence and remembrance can be sent to the Ely family at 3947 Mission St, Apt 2, San Francisco, CA 94112. We also invite you to share your thoughts and memories of Ellie via email to They will be compiled as a gift to Ellie’s family and also posted at .

A memorial for Ellie will be held in San Francisco sometime in the coming weeks, with another in Rhode Island in the summer. Any information the family may forward regarding charitable donations in her memory will be posted when it becomes available.

Remembering our friend Ellie,
Linda Green and Alice Mayio


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