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Caring for earth unites new YS family

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This is another in an occasional series of articles profiling individuals and families who recently moved to Yellow Springs.

Recently Volker Bahn was all set to play a pickup game of ultimate Frisbee, one of the 40-year-old college professor’s favorite Yellow Springs activities.

Unfortunately, the day’s incessant rainfall meant that the game was called off. However, as a result of the cancellation, Bahn had more time to sit down and discuss the path that led him and his wife, Deanna Newsom, to the village nearly one year ago.

“Half of my colleagues from the ecology side, they live here,” said Bahn, who was living in Montreal with Newsom and their two sons — Jonas, 6, and Oliver, 3 — when he accepted a position at Wright State University.

Several of those colleagues suggested Yellow Springs as an ideal place to relocate, and it seems that they were right. The rustic feel of the Greene County countryside and proximity to Glen Helen has been a perfect fit for Bahn and Newsom’s lifestyles.

For Bahn, it’s not only close to the school, but it provides bountiful material for his model distributions — data that he collects from plant and animal species in order to predict factors that could lead to their continued existence or eventual extinction. Bahn floats between the biology and ecology departments at Wright State, and many of his classes have focused on the climate change issues that he studies in the field.

“It all links to how much we have already fragmented our landscape and how much is going to change because of climate change,” he said.

Like Bahn, Newsom also finds the setting to be well-suited to her personal and professional undertakings. She works from home for the Rainforest Alliance, a New York-based conservation group, and spends the majority of her days making phone calls and sending e-mails to their various offices around the world. Rainforest Alliance focuses on involving businesses and consumers in efforts to get responsibly produced goods and services into the global marketplace.

“The whole idea behind it is to provide financial incentives for companies to do good sustainable practices,” Newsom said. The position does require that the 36-year-old mother travel periodically between offices in New York, Costa Rica and even London, but that rarely impedes her time with the boys. “That job has been very flexible. I’m just so thankful for them allowing me to keep working and going really part-time after I had the kids.”

Family is very important to the environmentally aware couple, who met as biology students at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Bahn was a graduate student on exchange from Munich, Germany, while Newsom was completing her bachelors degree. The two had an unusual courtship, with a fair portion spent in remote locations following the marbled murrelet, a tiny Northern Pacific sea bird whose numbers have declined over the last century because of logging practices.

“We spent summers in a tent. We were dropped off by a helicopter and it was like a see-you-in-three-weeks kind of thing,” said Newsom.

Since then, they have studied in such disparate places as Maine, Alabama and Germany. Now married for 13 years, they are delighted with the idea of giving up their globetrotting ways and settling down permanently.

Bahn does admit that he misses his aging parents, who remain in Germany, but doubts that he will move back anytime soon.

“We have no concrete plans of leaving here,” he said looking to his wife, who added, “I can see staying here forever.”

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