Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Streetsboro, Ohio. I was raised in Streetsboro where the town was still very rural, unlike today. I grew up in a farming community.
What brought you to Sanibel?
My new position here at J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR. I have always wanted to visit this refuge, since it has a very high prestige in the refuge system I was honored to be accepted here.
What do you enjoy most about the islands?
Their commitment to conservation. They are gorgeous islands, both Sanibel and Captiva. It is great to see the locals commitments to the beauty of the island and protection of the wildlife that can be found here.
We hear you are the new educator at the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. Can you share what your position entails? Why did you choose this sort of work?
Yes, I am the new environmental educator here at "Ding" Darling NWR. This job entails working with school districts, home school groups, scout troops and general visitors to enhance their knowledge and experiences on the refuge. My main goal with education is to instill in everyone of all ages the wonders of nature and what nature can teach us about ourselves. I will also be working as the Florida Jr. Duck Stamp coordinator which is an amazing program for any student who likes to draw!
What are you hoping to accomplish in your new position?
To connect as many people to nature as possible, nature has always been my constant companion in life. I like to share my love of the natural world with everyone I meet.
What do you consider the advantages and challenges of educating the community about wildlife?
The advantages are everywhere, in every aspect of life! Nature shows us how to slow down and enjoy the simpler things of life. When you are immersed in the natural world there can be some scary encounters but if we open our eyes and break away from what "Hollywood" teaches us, we learn so many new things and realize that nature isn't bad at all. The challenges I see for educating the community is the economy, how to get people and students here when busing, gas prices, and travel expenses fluctuate as quick as the wind.
What drew you to a career in wildlife and conservation?
My family immersed me in wildlife at an early age. I was always up a tree, knee deep in the pond, or going on camping trips as I grew up. In fact I don't think I have any childhood memories that don't involve nature some how. A true yet funny story how I came to work for the Fish & Wildlife Service is that I was going to school to be a veterinarian and I was in my senior year at Ohio State when in October 2004 I was hit in a crosswalk by a car while biking to class. It was in the hospital room that I applied for an Interpretation Internship at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. I always like to say that I wasn't listening to the man upstairs so he needed to be a little more forceful with me, so I listened and cannot imagine working at any other job.
How do you best think parents can teach their children about how to live with and respect wildlife and nature?
Good question. I think that parents first need to realize that nature is not as dangerous as TV portrays. Its okay to go outside, sure there can be dangers but I always like to tell my nieces and nephews that just remember this is THEIR home, not ours and how would you feel if someone came and destroyed your home? The best teacher is enthusiasm, parents don't think of going on a hike, or a nature tour as a chore...kids can read if you are interested or not and will only be interested in nature if you are interested. Children love to share excitement with their parents so next time maybe that every day egret or bird could be a "rare" sighting and your kids will love it!
How can people get into a career working with wildlife?
The best way is to first volunteer at a national wildlife refuge, state park, national park, or even local parks and conservation districts. Immerse yourself in the wildlife world and show your commitment to wanting a career in wildlife. Most wildlife careers start with volunteering and from there you can see if the job is right for you.
Are there any volunteering opportunities available at “Ding”?
There are always opportunities to volunteer at "Ding" Darling NWR. Stop by the education center today and see how you can become apart of the amazing volunteer team here at the refuge!
When you are not working at the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge what do you do for leisure?
I love to take my dogs to the beach, go to Zumba class, but mainly I'm just learning and exploring the area right now. I love to travel and explore new places all the time and I plan on visiting Key West and the Everglades National Park soon.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a huge sci-fi nut! I love Star Trek and Star Wars...that always seems to shock people. I'm a die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes Fan...I usually like to warn people first since I can be a little crazy about it.
What is your family life like?
I'm single but I have a very tight-knit family at home in Ohio. I dote upon my nieces and nephews, they are my life!
What are your long/short-term goals?
I really don't know right now.
You seem like a pretty easy-going happy sort? What do consider the best trail to work in the pursuit of happiness?
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. One of my favorite songs is “Roll with the Punches”. Sure bad things are going to happen but it is how you face them that decides on what type of person you are. I choose to be a happy, free-spirit so my advice is to just be yourself and make the best out of sour notes.