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Environmental Enthusiast Colleen Anna Retires

By Laura Hall
March 2010

Trish Castranio, Jeanelle Martinez, and Colleen Anna
Trish Castranio, Jeanelle Martinez, and Colleen Anna (left to right) at a table displaying gardening information during an NIEHS Earth Day event.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Colleen Anna
Colleen Anna in her laboratory. Despite all her activities, Anna still maintained a full work load in research. She was first author or co-author on more than 20 scientific papers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

After 34 years of government service, 29 here at NIEHS, Eicosanoid Biochemistry Group Biologist Colleen Anna spent her last day at work on Feb. 26. "I will miss all the interesting people here at NIEHS," said Anna. "It has been a privilege to work in such a friendly, exciting atmosphere as I have experienced at NIEHS. I will have to work hard to find that in the retirement crowd."

Nevertheless, Anna will be busy in retirement. She plans to visit her grandchildren more often and take them on trips. She'll continue to volunteer at the Durham Urban Ministries and her church and spend more time on her hobbies - stained glass, quilting, and gourd crafts and gardening.

Like any good gardener, Anna knows how to cultivate plants¬† — when to sow seeds, when to tend the growing plants, and when to step aside and watch them bloom. Her careful nurturing spills over into other areas of her life as well — in her personal relationships, her scientific endeavors, and in the causes that are important to her.¬† Indeed, like the plants in her garden, all those around her reap the benefit.

Caring about the environment

One of those causes is environmental responsibility in everyday life, so it is not surprising that she became a charter member of the NIEHS Environmental Awareness Advisory Committee (EAAC). The EAAC is a committee of administrative staff and volunteers that advises NIEHS management on environmental matters and promotes employee awareness of the environmental impact of everyday activities and ways to mitigate those impacts.

"As one of the 1991 EAAC charter members, Colleen helped to develop the mission, direction, and practical implementation of environmental activities at NIEHS," said National Toxicology Program Biologist Rachel Frawley, a former coworker of Anna and member of the EAAC. Anna became co-chair of the EAAC in 2001 and served for over six years. According to Employee Services Support Specialist Dick Sloane, who was her EAAC co-chair, "She was always one of the principal driving forces for the plant exchanges which took place in the Spring and a prime mover for Earth Day events."

Anna expanded Earth Day activities at NIEHS with new presenters and educational activities. She also participated in Bring Your Child To Work Day programs where she explained organic farming techniques and vermicomposting. Anna was active on the steering committee that advocated for and worked at getting on-site daycare. She was and continues to be an advocate for institutional recycling.

Taking an interest in others

"One thing I've observed about Colleen is that almost everyone in her circle becomes 'family,'" said Institutional Review Board Administrator Jane Lambert, a former coworker and longtime friend. "She takes great interest in the lives of others and is always asking how things are going. She brought wide varieties of people together during her time at NIEHS."

"Colleen is a very nice person. Everyone in my lab will miss her," said her supervisor, Tom Eling, Ph.D. "She has helped out every postdoc who came into the lab — helping them get established in a new lab and frequently a new country, as well as teaching them scientific protocols. She is our 'Go To' person."

Anna has passed the EAAC chair to others, but she is still sowing seeds for environmental awareness and sustainability. In her last weeks here, she spent time in the cafeteria demonstrating to fellow employees how to properly sort leftover food and used serving items for the new post-consumer composting program.

(Laura Hall is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology currently on detail as a writer for the Environmental Factor.)

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