I began working as a naturalist in 1994. I have been at Whitewater State Park since 2006. I started out as a seasonal naturalist, and in 2009 I became a year-round naturalist.
I love the variety of topics and activities we get to research and develop as naturalists. With each season there are different programs we offer and a variety of behind-the-scene projects we get to work on, such as prairie seed collecting in the fall and peregrine falcon nest monitoring in the spring.
One of my favorite places in the park is Inspiration Point, a beautiful limestone rock outcrop that overlooks the valley. It is the only overlook in the park where you cannot see any signs of civilization. When you stand on Inspiration Point on a quiet day, it's as if you've stepped back in time to witness the Whitewater Valley before European settlement.
There are so many wonderful outdoor activities to enjoy that it is very hard to choose one favorite! My top three would have to be rock/fossil collecting, kayaking and hiking. I have two daughters and these activities are great for the whole family! I love to explore new parks, trails and public lands via kayak or by foot. I love the sense of adventure when trekking into new areas.
Another tough question! I love birds, especially owls. When I was growing up, my grandparents and my father always had bird feeders. Watching the birds in the backyard has always been a great way to stay connected to nature and to observe the changing seasons. I have always been fascinated by owls, and one of my favorite programs to lead at the park is the Moonlight Owl Prowl. It is great to take folks out into the woods at dark and watch them get excited about calling to the owls!
I'd like to encourage kids who enjoy the outdoors to consider a career in a natural resource field. If you have an outdoor hobby that you enjoy, think of how you might be able to connect that interest to a future career. I did, and I absolutely love my job!