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What is a Park Naturalist?

A Park Naturalist is a specialized type of Park Ranger. Also known as: Interpretive Naturalist, Naturalist, Park Interpretive Naturalist.

A park naturalist is a lover of the outdoors and someone who loves to share what they know about nature with others. A park naturalist provides visitor services by answering questions, explaining regulations, providing information about the park and surrounding areas and dealing with any complaints. They also prepare and present lectures, talk about the park's features, and conduct field trips to point out historic, scientific and natural features of forests, parks and historic sites.

How to Become a Park Naturalist

What does a Park Naturalist do?

A park naturalist’s job is to interact with others and teach them about nature and the local flora and fauna. In order to do this, they spend most of their time outdoors and within the park learning about the different animals that live there and the types of grasses, trees, and mosses that grow in the area. They also teach people why it’s important to preserve our forests, parks and nature in general. One of a park naturalist's most common tasks is to take groups of people on hikes and nature walks so that they can see and learn about their natural surroundings.

A park naturalist interacts with people in two ways: personal interpretation and non-personal interpretation. Personal interpretation is face-to-face work through lectures, tours, and nature walks. Non-personal interpretation is done by making brochures, developing presentations, and creating displays. 

In addition to educating the public about nature and the importance of preserving it, a park naturalist is also an important part of a conservation or resource management team. Because they have such extensive knowledge of the parks they work in, they may be called on to offer advice regarding land management. For example, if a park wants to develop a new hiking trail, a park naturalist could advise which area would mitigate the least amount of damage to wildlife and nature. 

While a lot of a park naturalist’s work takes place outside, there is a fair amount of office work to do which is more common with supervisory positions. This includes working on budgets, planning activities, and compiling program schedules.

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How to become a Park Naturalist

There are a few things that aspiring park naturalists can do before beginning proper education. Explore the local landscape and practise observing nature. Take in the surroundings that are in your area or neighbourhood. Think about how the landscape has changed and the forces that shaped it into what it is today. Being a park naturalist is a very observant role, so practising taking in the surroundings and understanding why things are the way they are, can help build up an appreciation of nature, wildlife and the importance of preservation. 

Requirements that are needed for this job can vary from employer to employer. For the most part, a person needs to have a bachelor’s degree in ecology, biology, forestry, or geology and they also need to have some experience working in nature. Prior work experience is usually key to securing a job. One way to do this is to offer to work as a volunteer in order to gain experience. Having experience working with kids is usually an asset as well, as a park naturalist’s job often includes working with children, whether that means touring with families or with an entire classroom of children.

What is the workplace of a Park Naturalist like?

A park naturalist typically balances working outside with office work. One day may include organizing and leading nature hikes, while the next day might be at a computer designing a brochure and writing copy to educate people about the different species of birds in the area. No two days are alike, which is a definite plus for someone looking to have variety in their career.

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Further Reading

  • What Does a Park Naturalist Do? www.wisegeek.com

    A park naturalist is an individual who works at a state or national park, who provides educational programs to park visitors based on his or her extensive knowledge of the park.

  • What's it like to be a naturalist? www.dnr.state.mn.us

    State Parks and Trails naturalist Retta James-Gasser sits down with a student to talk about her job.

  • Variety keeps park naturalist busy seniorlifenewspapers.com

    When it comes to a typical day in the life, Potato Creek State Park Naturalist Cordell has not had one in 34 years.

  • Park Naturalist dnr.wi.gov

    On this November morning, it is easy to believe I have the best job in the Wisconsin State Park System.

  • A Day in the Life of a Naturalist woman.thenest.com

    A naturalist acts as an interpreter between park visitors and nature.

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  2. Get the Education

    • Delaware Technical Community College-Stanton/Wilmington | Wilmington, DE
      Offers: Associates
    • Delaware State University | Dover, DE
      Offers: Bachelors
    • University of Delaware | Newark, DE
      Offers: Bachelors
    • Wesley College | Dover, DE
      Offers: Bachelors
    • Wilmington University | New Castle, DE
      Offers: Bachelors
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