Sat 24 Sep 2016
With the passing of Otto Gutenson last week, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the region as a whole has lost a valued environmentalist and volunteer.
As noted in his obituary, Gutenson, 68, passed away September 20 of complications of Parkinson’s disease.
He was “a very dedicated conservationist and wildlife activist,” said Phil Daley, who worked closely with Gutenson since the inception of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program in 1996.
“As a long time advisor to Loudoun Wildlife’s Board and stream team, he will be sorely missed. I will miss his wit, knowledge and friendship,” Daley said.
Through Gutenson’s many contacts with federal, state and local officials “he kept our ‘stream team’ abreast of trends in monitoring and data collection requirements,” Daley said. “Otto was key in establishing Loudoun Watershed Watch as a widely recognized advocate for water quality within Loudoun County and the state.”
“He used his professional experience to inform his volunteer participation and inform those of us who didn’t have that background,” recalled Gem Bingol, Clarke and Loudoun County Land Use Officer with the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Daley and Bingol said Gutenson helped Loudoun Wildlife’s stream team adopt the more volunteer-friendly Virginia Modified Save Our Streams system of gathering insects and evaluating the health of Loudoun’s streams.
“He felt that it was important that the process be easy, yet reliable enough for anyone to do. He helped us see how our work fit into the bigger picture,” Bingol said.
But it wasn’t just Gutenson’s expertise that left a mark; his wit and personality shone through as well.
David Ward, who currently heads Loudoun Watershed Watch, and his wife, Carol, began their stream monitoring under Gutenson’s guidance.
“Occasionally joined by other volunteers, we cherished our time with Otto as he entertained us on a myriad of subjects,” Ward said. “With pipe in hand, Otto never missed the opportunity to share his thoughts and political ramblings. His twinkly-eyed dry humor made collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates an enjoyable event.
“One monitoring event coincided with Otto’s birthday, so we presented him with an oversized magnifying glass and a ‘King of the Bugs’ baseball cap,” Ward said.
“We will miss Otto’s ‘streamside’ manner, uncanny wit – our mentor and our friend.”