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Gateway Science Series, Part 2

By Casey Smith, Naturalist

I took part in a webinar recently where Neil DeGrasse Tyson was the keynote speaker. Someone asked him what was his “gateway science”, meaning what was the science that got him into astrophysics. I thought that would be a great topic to ask Preservation Parks staff. Staff were asked the three questions below. I’ve shared their name, job title, and responses. I hope you enjoy getting to know some of our staff during this series.

What got you into this line of work, or your “gateway science”?

Looking back, is working for a park district what you saw your future self doing?

If working for a park district is not what you expected you would be doing, is there anything you find surprising about working for Preservation Parks?

Mary VanHaaften – Deputy Director
I spent a lot of time in nature as a kid and loved birds, flowers, stars, etc.  My favorite classes in high school were art and science, so in college I studied landscape architecture with a focus on conservation and ecology.

I didn’t know I would end up working in a park district but knew my career would be tied to conservation in some way.

Matt Simpson – Senior Park Planner
Growing up on a 60-acre farm, I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors.  As a family, we were always outside hiking, fishing, biking and even horse-back riding.  I found Landscape Architecture at OSU and thought it was a great way to have a positive influence on people’s lives and the outdoor environment. 

I always knew I wanted to work outdoors but didn’t have a clear direction.  Early in my profession, I found that park design was where I wanted to focus my time.  The projects and people involved were a lot of fun. Having worked with lots of park districts, I had a good understanding of Preservation Parks mission and values.  But I didn’t know how great the entire PPDC team was.    

Chris Roshon – Natural Resources Manager
When I was a kid my grandparents had some land near Sunbury with woods, a pond, and a small block building that we used for family gatherings and camping. I spent a lot of time there fishing, roaming the woods, and camping.  I was also fortunate to have been in a scout group that went on all sorts of outdoor excursions and overnight camping trips.

In high school I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved the outdoors, my guidance counselor suggested I major in Wildlife Management at Hocking College. While at Hocking I became very interested in managing land for wildlife. For a while I envisioned myself working for the Division of Wildlife on one of their wildlife areas. Thankfully I took an internship at Preservation Parks and have been working here ever since.

I’m surprised by how much I end up working with other staff, volunteers, and visitors, and how much I enjoy that aspect of the job. I spend a fair amount of time kind of isolated working out in the parks, but the more enjoyable and maybe more important work tends to involve working closely with others.

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