Current Position: Park Services Specialist at Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
How long have you been with the Florida Park Service and in what capacity?
I have been employed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at Lovers Key State Park for almost two years. I began working here as a Park Ranger and then took a position as the Park Services Specialist in 2006.
How did you become involved in working as a Park Ranger?
I've always enjoyed backpacking and paddling to remote, natural areas and have wanted to have a hand in preserving them. This position offers me the opportunity to do so in a hands-on application through prescribed fire, exotic species removal, and wildlife research and protection.
Describe a typical day at your job.
My responsibilities include coordinating resource management efforts in the Park, including monitoring and protection of the Park's listed species and ecosystem restoration. Additionally I coordinate the Park's special events, serve as a liaison to the Park's Citizen Support Organization, Friends of Lovers Key, manage the Park's volunteer program, and handle media inquiries, promotion and outreach, and public relations.
How many hours a week do you work?
Typically 40 hours a week, although my schedule may vary due to special events, prescribed burns or wildfires, and during the Park's busy season.
What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
The once in a lifetime experiences that happen all the time - releasing sea turtle hatchlings, watching black bears stroll out of a wildfire, experiencing the force of an afternoon thunderstorm over the Gulf of Mexico, and working with great people in a piece of paradise. Plus, nothing beats an outdoor office.
What do you find to be the greatest challenges of your job?
Balancing protection of our natural resources with outdoor recreation and high visitation will always be a challenging area for anyone that works for the Florida Park Service. Education plays a key role in minimizing the impact visitors have on our environment while they're enjoying it.
What kind of training/schooling is required in your position?
I earned a degree in political and environmental sciences, and have received field training in wildland firefighting, and Global Information System (GIS) application.
What are a few of the projects that you've been working on recently that have been the most interesting?
Monitoring shorebirds and coordinating protection efforts for our sea turtle nests; managing the native plant portion of a multi-agency grant the Park received; collecting samples of undocumented plants in the Park for the State's herbarium.
If someone were interested in working in your position, what advice could you give them?
Be flexible, ready to learn about and tackle any project and challenge that comes your way. Volunteering is a great way to start - it's an opportunity to learn more about working in the field, and is a great way to gain valuable experience. Most of all don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.