Between Two Worlds, Betsy Kerlin Shares Her Dual Perspective as a Suburbanite and Nature Lover

800 450 Stroud Water Research Center
Diane Huskinson

By Diane Huskinson

Betsy Kerlin with her family on the beach.

Like more than half of American children, Betsy Kerlin grew up in the suburbs, surrounded by a patchwork of concrete and green spaces. Her family lived in Mt. Healthy, Ohio — a Cincinnati suburb — next to a gas station and across the street from commercial development that has housed a doctor’s office, a butcher shop, and most recently, a Walgreens.

“Although I was not surrounded by vast, pristine forests, my parents made certain that I played outside as much as possible at nearby city and county parks,” Kerlin recalls. “We also camped as a family and were involved in Scouting, with both my parents serving as troop leaders. One of my earliest memories is of my dad carrying me around in one of those backpack carriers through Winton Woods, a Hamilton County park, just a few miles from my house.”

Growing up with one foot in the natural world and another in one constructed by humans, Kerlin learned the importance of having access to protected forests, wetlands, and streams: “Everyone needs nature. Everyone needs clean water. Nature can serve as a balm to both physical and mental maladies. It is because of this that I will always work to support successful environmental organizations.”

Kerlin, who holds a bachelor’s in biology and public health from the University of the Cumberlands and a master’s in forest resources from Penn State, joined Stroud Water Research Center in July 2021 as the grant and contract administrator. Previously, she worked in similar roles with the Delaware Center for Horticulture, Northern Kentucky University, and the Ohio River Foundation. Before moving to Pennsylvania with her husband, Steve Kerlin, the Stroud Center’s education director, she was the executive director for North Central Conservancy Trust in Wisconsin.

Betsy Kerlin takes a selfie with her two young sons against a grassy hill and blue sky background.

“My goal has always been to work for successful environmental organizations that are making a measurable difference in my immediate community.”

A mother to two boys, Lucas and Ethan, Kerlin says she values the impact the Stroud Center’s work has on her community, improving the health of streams and rivers that, she says, “my sons splash in every summer.” She adds, “Instilling an environmental ethic in our children is very important to my husband and me, and having a wild and scenic place for my boys to explore is the first step in establishing that foundation.”

In her free time, Kerlin enjoys hiking with her children and puppy, vegetable gardening, preserving food, and serving as a board member of the London Britain Township Land Trust.  

“I tend to become fully immersed in my hometowns and strive to help them become the best places possible for my children and my future grandchildren,” she says.

Betsy and Steve Kerlin and sons in a forest.