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Gateway Science Series, Part 4

By Casey Smith, Naturalist, and Park District Staff

I (Casey) 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?

Kelli Venable

Kelli Venable – Park Technician
I grew up going to Blues Creek Park, it opened in 2001 when I was in elementary school, and spent the majority of my childhood outdoors. I never thought about working for parks, as it was “pushed” that I go to a good college and get a good job. After my first year in college, I got a seasonal position at PPDC. That fall I spent the semester studying the Grand Canyon Region through Northern Arizona University. I realized very fast that I wouldn’t be happy working indoors for the rest of my life. Upon returning, I transferred to Hocking College getting my degree in a wildlife field and continued working for PPDC. It wasn’t until the semester I was at the Grand Canyon that I knew I was changing majors to continue working outside.
I found it surprising when I first started working here that no day is the same. Yes, we have specific tasks in Operations but there is no routine day or routine task. It could be finding a snake by the restroom or a grey tree frog climbing up the building, or a visitor asking questions about an animal, bird, or plant and helping them ID it. There are so many small things that I can appreciate because I work at the parks that I wouldn’t have known about previously. Like the day my coworker and I found a Sora Rail at Hogback Ridge Park, a shorebird that has a specific niche which is not exactly at Hogback but more common at Alum Creek. 

Logan Dunn

Logan Dunn – Park Technician
Growing up on a farm we had thousands of acres to explore and utilize. On the weekends we would venture to Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area and search for, at that time, the elusive bald eagle. Growing up engrossed in nature, I wanted nothing more than to fulfill a career of helping out, consulting and advising those working with and around natural resources.
Working for Preservation Parks, or any park district, is much more than just cleaning facilities and mowing. It’s a much more diverse paradigm than that. Meeting visitors and educating/addressing concerns, habitat management, education, land acquisition, construction projects, mitigation, etc… It truly has been eye opening for all the possibilities one can contribute to when working for Preservation Parks.

Kyle Pace

Kyle Pace – Operations Manager
As a child my father and grandfathers provided me plenty of experiences in nature such as camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. They explained that we need to take care of the world that we have so future generations can have the same enjoyable experiences that we had. While fishing and hunting I encountered Wildlife Officers and they inspired me to look into colleges that provided degrees in Natural Resources. I pursued my degree in Natural Resources Law Enforcement at Hocking College. Looking back, I did not see myself working for a park district. I saw myself working for the Division of Wildlife as a wildlife officer. The summer of 2008 however, I found a new passion while completing my practicum for college at Prairie Oaks Metro Park as a Seasonal Park Technician. My experiences from this job gave me a new appreciation for parks as it takes a crew to provide a clean and safe environment for visitors to have positive experiences.
Working for Preservation Parks doesn’t feel like a job because I am surrounded by a team that shares the same passion as I do. I see it as a career because every day the entire organization is making great strides to improve our parks to provide our visitors memorable experiences as well as resorting mother nature back to its original state.

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