Everyone seems to want to know what a typical day in the life of an interpretative ranger on the Mt. Hood National Forest might entail; it is my intense pleasure to tell them I do not ever have a typical day. The flexibility and creativity of my position allows me to experience a great breadth of the forest and craft a mental map of the inner workings of the ecosystems and the people who manage them in the forest.
Immediately out of school, I struggled to find a position utilizing the interdisciplinary nature of my Environmental Studies B.S. I felt my skills and knowledge were reaching, but not deep enough below the surface for many of the jobs I was seeing. Working in my role now, I am reassured by the value of a diverse representation of knowledge, even if not always seemingly directly applicable. All the information from school and prior internships has immensely helped make sense of the environment and cultural history of the area I am in as well as connecting to others; this is, in fact, the definition of interpretation.
Working in interpretation is a pleasant reminder that while we may divide fields into separate areas or types of management, in nature, all the elements are interconnected and can rarely be isolated. Everytime I have worked or shadowed a project, at least three different disciplines and at least two organizations have been represented. When I was fortunate enough to tour the Bull Run Watershed, we had USFS folks from the Botany and Invasive Species, Fisheries, and Interpretation departments, and our host was Portland Water Bureau. I was also lucky enough to attend a Whitebark Pine seminar in which we had attendance from USFS Zigzag District Ranger, Mountain Resort Team, Botany, Interpretation, and Special Permit Uses, Timberline and RLK representatives from the Ski Area Manager, Grooming Team, and Bike Park Team, the SkiBowl, and experts working with USFWS. These experiences have been an embodiment of multiple uses on the landscape and effective collaboration.
Collaboration is at the heart of natural resources, and it has been phenomenal to witness in real-time the synthesis of expert ideas and comradery. It is not always easy, as different organizations do have different goals and approaches, but the reality is there are infinite ways to work in natural resources, with some of the perspectives I’ve seen represented being governmental, non-profit, and private contractors/operators. I’ve also quickly learned there is no sense in limiting the range of knowledge represented, as different elements often come up in unexpected contexts while working outside.
This program thus far has encouraged me to try scary and new things, seek out opportunities no matter how small, and always go for a walk in the woods if all else fails!
Rather than a day, I present ‘A Week in the Life of an Interpretative Ranger’
CAPTION Friday (my Monday): Be Smokey’s Handler at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp
CAPTION Saturday: Interpretation Programming in the field. This is a Fourth of July celebration at a local community center where we set up pelts, skulls, and scat and talked about Smokey and Fire Prevention as well.
CAPTION Saturday Night: Shadow Fellow MAI intern Sienna at Conboy Lake National Refuge, where we hand-caught this non-native bullfrog and removed it.
CAPTION Sunday: Go for a Hike on a nearby trail to craft potential guided hikes for the public and familiarize self with trail to recommend to visitors of the lodge or ranger station. Study plants, geologic features, and potential wildlife. This is Ramona Falls.
CAPTION Monday: Shadow Fisheries and do some smolt trapping! The first photo is on the Still Creek upstream release site for Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout that have been weighed, measured, and marked for a stream study. Slippery buggers! The flailing fish in my hands is a Coho Salmon Smolt.
CAPTION Tuesday: My day to cover tours of Historic Timberline Lodge! This was from the last day it snowed this season–June 20th!!! I give three tours a day, which could be a private tour or a public walk-up tour. Volunteers cover the other days.