Tamara Lynn McCandless passed away on May 20, 2018, in her hometown of Nashville, Indiana. She was 56 years old.
Known for her sharp mind, big heart, and wry wit, Tamara was beloved by family and friends.
Growing up amid a lush and diverse natural landscape not far from Bloomington instilled in Tamara two lifelong loves: nature and sports. In high school, Tamara was an outstanding student who, like a true Hoosier, also excelled at basketball—so much so that she was recruited to play for Rocky Mountain College in Montana. But it was not long before the siren call of Indiana beckoned her home. She eventually returned to finish her undergraduate studies at Indiana University, where she earned a BS in biology while gaining valuable experience working in both the laboratory and field for the Biology Department.
After college, Tamara launched what would become a three-decade-long career devoted to conservation. After five years working for the California Tahoe Conservancy, she returned to IU, earning an MS in environmental sciences and developing her expertise as a wetlands biologist.
After completing her degree in 1992, Tamara accepted her first position with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis, Maryland. She rose through the ranks, helping to develop a stream restoration lab, and in 2006 received a promotion to work at the FWS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. There, she helped lead the National Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, where her influence is still felt today.
In 2014, Tamara moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, to head the Air and Water Resources Branch of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Finally, throughout her time with the FWS, she regularly attended and taught courses at the National Conservation Training Center, a true home away from home.
Tamara was a fierce and fearless (save for her dread of spiders) outdoorswoman, who loved to fly fish and hike and bird watch, often incorporating these activities into her work and travels across the US and abroad. Most of all, she loved hunting for morels with her sister, Becky, every spring in Indiana. Tamara admired her sister’s skill and instinct for finding the mushrooms and relished their time searching together.
Tamara was a devoted daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. Her colleagues—mentors, mentees, and peers—were a second family to her. She had a big, slow smile, a mischievous glint in her eye, and a deep laugh that relayed her sense of humor. She endeared herself to everyone she met, from government officials and staffers to the scientists and ranchers she worked alongside to Teddy, the itinerant worker who washed her Blazer whenever he was in town.
She will be deeply missed.
Survivors include her sister, Rebecca McCandless; niece, Jennifer Harter-Merriman; nephew, Brandon Roberts of Texas; aunt, Paula Hansen (Baron); uncles, Charles Brown (Karen), Tim Birch (Cheryl), and Richard Birch (Patty); numerous cousins; and dear friends Krissy Bruner and Zellie Loudermilk and cousin Tracy Brown.
She was preceded in death by her mother and father, Donna and Samuel McCandless, and her cousin Deborah Robinson.
Memorial contributions may be made to Sycamore Land Trust online at https://sycamorelandtrust.org/donate/ or by mail to Sycamore Land Trust, PO Box 7801, Bloomington, IN 47407.
Cremation Services have been provided by Meredith-Clark Funeral Home Cremation & Personalization Center in Morgantown.
Condolences can be sent to the family at www.meredith-clark.com