Conserve Wildlife Blog

Senior Zoologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program Sharon Petzinger Honored for Inspriation

October 19th, 2018

As a senior zoologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, 2018 Women & Wildlife Inspiration Honoree, Sharon Petzinger has served as a dedicated champion for stabilizing the Golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), an endangered species which has declined as steeply as nearly any songbird species in America. Sharon works tirelessly, visiting key sites, spending countless early spring mornings completing bird surveys, and promoting the program to the public. Sharon has helped to create contracts with 30 landowners to help stop the decline of this bird and has helped to establish over 350 acres of actual habitat specifically created to promote this species.

Sharon also works collaboratively with the United States Department of Agriculture. She consistently goes above and beyond in her responsibilities to generate the greatest conservation impacts. Sharon enthusiastically spends her free time participating in meetings and workshops to help disseminate and apply the latest songbird conservation strategies in New Jersey.

Sharon truly grounds herself in the science and works to apply lessons from new research in bird conservation and habitat requirements. Even when new findings arise that may conflict with old understandings, Sharon continually allows the science to guide her opinions and actions. She embraces the new research personally, but also shows courage in defending the scientific approach. While her primary focus is on New Jersey habitat, Sharon has also championed the efforts to consider the protection of wintering habitat in Central America by supporting organic shade-grown coffee plantations.

Sharon consistently represents the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Protection with a high degree of professionalism.

Join us to honor Sharon and the three other 2018 Women & Wildlife Award Honorees on Wednesday, November 7th beginning at 6 PM. Purchase events tickets and find more information.


We asked Sharon a few questions about what inspires her to dedicate her career to New Jersey’s conservation:

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I love working with wildlife, especially when it comes to conserving New Jersey’s endangered, threatened, and rare wildlife. I am literally doing my dream job!

Name one thing you can’t live without.

That’s easy – my faith in God. He is the reason I am who I am and do what I do. He helps me to stand strong and not give up doing what is right, no matter how difficult it is.

Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best?

Well, if an occasional transient species in NJ counts, I would have to say painted buntings. They were the one of first species I studied (not in NJ) and it was amazing to see how innovative they were in finding suitable nest sites in an area with limited forest understory. I also love the song of the hermit thrush.

Name one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change the world.

Be patient with yourself, accept your mistakes, and always be willing to learn from others. I know that’s three things, but they need to go together as one. Many people tend to overestimate how much they can accomplish in the short-term, but underestimate how much they can do over the long-term. It is through the hard work of making and learning from mistakes and collaborating with others that gives us the endurance and wisdom to make a real difference in this world.

What do you find most challenging about your profession? When I collaborate with others or speak with people in general, I do so with a level of trust and respect. That may be naive of me, but I believe we need to treat others as we would want to be treated. Because of that, I find it challenging to deal with people who lack authenticity or use others solely for their own gain.

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

I love the feeling of letting every thought and feeling go and just being present in the quietness of solitude without distraction, whether it be outside on a hike or sitting in my house. Between working full time and being a wife and mom, those moments are few and far between.


Please join us on Wednesday November 7, 2018 from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Coach Barn at Duke Farms to honor the contributions that Sharon Petzinger, Pat Heaney, Beth Styler Barry, and Diane Soucy have made to wildlife in New Jersey.

We are excited to recognize the leadership and inspiration they provide for those working to protect wildlife in New Jersey.

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