Stella Turk MBE. A tribute from Mary Atkinson

Stella Turk MBE
 
‘We lived in the crevices between the books’ Stella once said. This, for me, epitomises her. You may not have come across Stella Maris Turk, icon of the recording world in Cornwall for many decades, but her influence pervades every aspect of natural history conservation and recording in Cornwall.
 
Born on the Scillies, she died in early April just after her 92nd birthday. The 5th of 6 siblings, she was home educated, and interested in natural history from her earliest years. The family later settled in Feock, and in her ‘teens she fell under the spell of Frank Turk an Exeter University lecturer whom she subsequently married. Between their joint busy lives of academic teaching and practical fieldwork, from 1972 they set out to collect and collate every natural history record for Cornwall, from fossil times to the present. Years ahead of its time, this already huge card index was digitized  in the ‘80s by the young computer whizz kid Colin French, and it became the ERICA database, a nationally acclaimed computerised system.
 
Stella was hugely influential in encouraging young naturalists who all remember fondly the cottage outside Camborne full of books, boxes of specimens, all sorts of cherished items and the long narrow garden stuffed with interesting plants and  two sheds, the Zoology Hut and the Botany Hut, little studio/laboratories/specialist libraries.
 
She was involved with the early days of the County Wildlife Trust, the setting up of the Helford River Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, the President of the Conchological Society, wrote many scientific papers as well as a weekly Nature Notes for the Camborne Times, and she lectured and led field trips. For her great contribution to natural history in Cornwall she was awarded the MBE in 2003.
 
Stella’s interests were wide outside the natural history world too, but we especially knew, loved and respected her for her work particularly on the sea-shore and marine strandings. She was unassuming, friendly, never put you down, hospitable, hugely knowledgeable, and her legacy will live on through the many people associated with her.
 
Thank you for this Mary ~ how many of us stop to wonder about the history of biological recording in Cornwall and Stella's work was crucial in its time and helped to lay the foundations for the future. JB