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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 / Fax (410) 516-5251

April 30, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT:
Gary Dorsey, gdd@jhu.edu


Lab Assistant Tackles Preakness Trash,
Saves Acres of Rainforest

It is the day after the Preakness Stakes and yet another orgiastic festival of 90,000 has left the huge infield of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore steeped in the detritus of Budweiser and buckets of KFC, tip sheets and newspapers. The temperature climbs into the 90s, and the smell of stale beer rises like steam from a crab boil.

Enter Johns Hopkins lab technician Tim Hoen and his PhD trash-pickers.

By mid-day on Sunday, May 16,, they will have earned enough money cleaning the infield to buy another large tract of the Costa Rican rainforest.

Through a national "Adopt-An-Acre" program, supported in part by the Nature Conservancy, the trash-pickers' cash will purchase and protect habitat for endangered animals, plants and ecosystems in the tropics.

"We call it 'trash for cash,'" said Hoen, who assists in the Biophysics Department and serves as president of an organization that sponsors the annual Preakness Cleanup. "In one day, our volunteers can raise as much as $4,000, which will buy another 80 acres of rainforest. For a half day's work, we can do something really positive."

This is the second year Hoen and friends have organized the cleanup and the ninth that they have participated. With a crew of a hundred pickers, working from 6 a.m. to noon, they will have bagged enough chicken bones and crumpled paper and cashed in enough aluminum cans to buy a nesting beach for a few leatherback sea turtles or a small reserve for red-eyed tree frogs.

"We usually have people from Hopkins and another contingent from the National Aquarium, but we'll take anyone who's willing to break a sweat and pick garbage," says Hoen, who manages to corral a dozen of Johns Hopkins research scientists, post-docs and graduate students from the labs for a hard half-day steeped in what can be a most revolting accumulation of garbage. "In the past, we've even had a group of people on probation who do this to knock out a few hours of mandatory community service."

Since 1993, Hoen has raised money to purchase more than 2,500 acres of rainforest through the cleanup and his other non-profit fund raiser, the Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show.

An avid environmentalist, his love for animals carries over from the Hopkins lab where he works to the reptiles he cares for at home to the rich variety of animals that inhabit the rainforests.

His inspiration, though, comes from San Francisco, where a zookeeper named Norm Gershenz turned that city's discarded parking meters into an ecological gold mine that has raised more than $1 million for rainforest protection. Relying on the generosity of passing tourists who pop quarters into Gershenz's "conservation meters" at zoos and museums around the country, the San Francisco environmentalist has teamed with The Nature Conservancy to purchase land that will protect endangered tropical habitats from Costa Rica to Indonesia.

"The first time I talked to Norm, I knew we were soul mates," Hoen says. "He saw an opportunity to do something big with a little idea -- save millions of acres of rainforest, wetlands and coral reefs with parking meters. I thought, 'Why can't I do something like that?'"

Volunteers at this year's Preakness Cleanup will get T-shirts, a picnic lunch, and prizes donated by local businesses, including a two-night stay at a downtown Baltimore hotel, movie passes, and tickets to the Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show in September.

Anyone interested in helping Hoen's cleaning crew or learning more about the rainforest project should contact Holli Friedland at (410) 602-0828.

Related Links

Preakness

Preakness Cleanup

Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show


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