Virginia Dautreuil, 35, is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. She fills the position left vacant by the unexpected death of John J. Varkonda in late December at the age of 55 after 26 years in the job. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) appointed her to the job following two interviews.
Ms. Dautreuil is only the third person and first woman to hold the post. The first was Manuel F. Correllus, for whom the forest is named.
Ms. Dautreuil, a native of Newtown, Conn., is an experienced naturalist with knowledge of the Cape area. She currently lives in South Yarmouth with her husband. She said she has a lot to learn.
“At this point I’m looking with open eyes,” she said, “taking it step-by-step and hoping to learn about the forest and the Island. I am looking forward to getting involved in the Island community. I spent all of my summers growing up on Cape Cod and had an internship at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, studying whales.”
Ms. Dautreuil cultivated an early interest in nature and conservation. From the age of 12 until she was in her early twenties she worked as a seasonal volunteer at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. She earned an undergraduate degree in wildlife science at Virginia Tech.
After college she did surveys assessing freshwater stream health for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and worked as a technician in West Virginia, in a forest used for logging, studying salamanders. She also studied the effects of hydroelectric dams on freshwater fisheries projects in Virginia. Ms. Dautreuil worked in Texas for five years as a civilian field biologist with the Texas National Guard, dealing with wildlife and fire management. She received a masters degree in aquatic biology from Texas State University where she studied the effects of wildfires on aquatic life.
The state forest was created in 1908 as the “Heath Hen Reserve,” in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today it is managed for passive recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its 14 miles of bike paths.
“We’re excited to move to the Island and are looking for a place to live,” she said. “My husband, Marc, and I both love to fish and go claiming. We like to hike, camp out, kayak, bird watch, and bike. Really almost anything outside.”
She said she is in training for the new position. “I’ll be shadowing other supervisors, learning about the department, doing orientation, that kind of thing,” she said. One of her first jobs, she said, is working with a regional resource manager to learn about the forest and to meet with the local fire control people to get up to speed on the Island’s fire fighting and prevention plans.