Career Story: Naturalist At A State Park

Naturalist At A State Park

Job Title: Naturalist

Type of Company: I work at a state park where our mission is mainly public education but where we also are involved in a good bit of resource management.

Education: BS, Natural Resources, Cornell University •• MS, Zoology, North Carolina State University

Previous Experience: I have been an independent bird researcher and educator for over 10 years. Before that I was na ornithological technician with the State Museum of Natural Sciences.

Job Tasks: My job not only involves working with the public but also the flora and fauna of the park. I do surveys, bird banding and assist with prescribed burns in addition to producing programs for visitors and answering a myriad of natural history questions from the public.

I do a lot of bird programs for people of various ages who come to the park. These may involve bird banding demonstrations or the use of bird skins, nests, etc. to illustrate the topic. I produce the program descriptions and announcements for these programs as well as hand out materials. Sometimes the programs involve hikes through the property. I also help keep track of our hands-on educational materials and scientific materials (bird/mammal skins, bones, nests, photographs, etc.).

We constantly are creating or addressing initiatives. Recently I established a feeding station at the park. This is for photographers and nature watchers who stop by. I arranged for all of the materials involved, which were donated locally.

We also do sporadic survey work across the park property. It may be vegetation work on established plots or it may be moth baiting or bird point counts. We are responsible for maintaining an inventory of the flora and fauna of the park. Part of this also involves managing invasive species, which are mainly plants (i.e. Chinese wisteria).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that it is varied from day to day. There is very little repetitious work. Also, I spend a lot of my time outdoors where I prefer to be! Furthermore I have a lot of say as far as how I do my job. I can be as creative as I like.

The only down side is that the pay is not much above minimum wage currently.

Job Tips:
1.) Do not be afraid to start out as a volunteer some place in order to get your foot in the door.

2.) Be willing to be flexible when it comes to work hours and initial job responsibilities.

Additional Thoughts: My current full-time job is fun and very rewarding, as I had hoped. But it is not a career. And I do not have job security so I have to supplement what I do with short-term outside jobs as well. It takes persistence and creative thinking as well as a good number of contacts across the state to have enough work to keep me busy. Through my initial work in Raleigh at the state museum years ago, I was able to plug in to some important networks that helped me get established. These days, my active participation in our state-wide professional society of wildlife biologists still produces connections but to newer folks in the field.

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