Karen Vahling is the director of development for Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, responsible for fundraising more than $600,000 each year for the nonprofit’s programs and projects.
An avid environmentalist, she fell in love with St. John on a SCUBA dive trip in 1994 and never looked back to the cold Midwestern climate. Concern for environmental issues and coral reefs around St. John led her to return stateside long enough to receive a BS in Natural Resources and Nonprofit Management from Colorado State University in 2009.
By blending more than 20 years of experience in owning small businesses with her education, Vahling set out on a personal mission to protect the rare beauty of this tropical island. She provided communications strategies to control sedimentation on coral reefs as an intern for the Coral Bay Community Council, then became Executive Director of the Island Green Living Association for three years before accepting her current role with Friends of VI National Park in 2012.
Vahling is known for a passion for environmental protection, outreach and writing skills as well as “outside the box” thinking to solve problems for the greater good. She is a strong advocate of reuse/recycling, public awareness and land conservancy. A supporter of green building, she built her island home to have no electric or water bills, through careful planning, solar and efficiency. Today she lives with her cat and partner, Jeff, continuing work on her tropical dream home, surrounded by verdant native forest, azure sea, fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Vahling serves on the board of Island Green Living Association (IGLA).