Every Wednesday on Twitter at 9:00pm EDT there is a thing called #ParkChat. Where people who love the parks (both State and Federal) answer questions with each other and discuss different topics. Its only about an hour long and I joined before I came here to Yellowstone and no longer had cell phone service. I like to join whenever I have cell phone service or internet! Last week a few of them decided to do a “Ask the Ranger Anything” section and they picked me to be the Ranger! How cool is that!? It left me without words and I felt beyond blessed and honored.
I came into the office on my night off and used the internet. The whole experience was great, but it was hard to answer questions with 140 character spaces.
I decided to share some of those questions and answers with you on here!
Reminder: These opinions and answer are my own and do not represent the National Park Service’s opinion.
Q1: Where are you assigned now and what other NPS sites have you been assigned to?
Q2: Please explain a little how the Ranger assignment system works. Is it challenging to get a particular assignment?
Currently I am working in Yellowstone National Park, in the Fishing Bridge Area, but I only have 5 work days left! I have worked two summers at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and my first summer was at Assateague Island National Seashore. There is a general misconception about how our job placement works though. Each Ranger is not “assigned” a park to work at and they don’t move us around either. Every six months the National Parks that have positions available post jobs online at USAJobs.gov. You just apply to whatever park or job sounds the best to you! The competition is hard, so at this point in my life I’m not being picky and applying to almost everywhere. I was very lucky when Yellowstone emailed me for an interview.
Q3: How do you see the park ranger responsibilities changing over the next 10 to 20 years? (From @ThatOutdoorGuy)
Originally I answered this question personally, how that at this moment, I can’t really see myself in supervisory position. A lot of coworkers like to pick on me and say that when I’m a Chief of Interpretation at a park I need to remember them. Maybe someday in the future I will look more into park management, but currently I like working in the field and talking with visitors!
To answer the question in a general way, there are rumors that there will be less Ranger programs in the future. It seems most visitors like visiting National Parks, but don’t attend or speak to the Park Rangers. Possibly there will be more hands-on and self-guiding opportunities for visitors. Again, this is only RUMOR. I don’t think that National Park Visitors feel that way at all.
Plus with the National Park Service’s Centennial coming up we will need more volunteers and Rangers to run programs and other things to celebrate the Park Service turning 100!
Q4: What would you like to see in the management of the NPS by future generations? (From @ChazRor)
I would like to see more involvement with the local communities outside National Parks. Active involvement with programs and activities, maybe even classes about management and resources to encourage adults (and other cultures) about our National Parks. Maybe having Ranger programs in the communities nearby about bear safety, hiking safety, how to use compasses, maps, identifying flowers, and more!
Q5: Is being a ranger what you had expected? (From @t_jh2009)
It was more than I expected! I really just had this idea that I wanted to be a National Park Ranger, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually physically capable of speaking in front of groups. After my first summer as a Visitor Use Assistant in Assateague Island National Seashore I knew the Park Service is what I wanted to do. Then came the tough part, can I actually lead programs? The next summer I was a Interpretative Ranger at Mesa Verde National Park and even though I was super nervous and terrified I fell in love with what I did. Find out more about My Park Story.
Q6: What do you need in the way of education to become a ranger? (From @karenl_m)
May we ask where? Any school in particular that is well known for breeding Rangers? (From @Flow397)
It depends on the type of Park Ranger you want to be! For Law Enforcement Rangers (Police Rangers) you do need to go to a special academy and be certified. Just like for our paramedics and fire Rangers. If you want to work in the Resource Management Divison (with invasive plants, tagging wildlife, etc) it helps to have degrees in those types of fields. For me, an Interpretive Park Ranger, it just helps to have a degree! Maybe in history, plants, biology, arts, business, or in my case, Environmental Education. I went to school in Pennsylvania at Slippery Rock University. Any school with a Parks and Resource Management Degree or something along those lines should be good
Q7: Do rangers strive to work at as many parks as possible OR simply try to fond the best fit? (From @Flow397)
It does help the resume by working different positions at different parks because it gives you great experiences. However, I think most Park Rangers are just looking for a place that feels like home. Sometimes it takes many years because jobs are so limited so you do have to move every couple years or so. Its hard to start or family in those cases, but many people do it!
Q8: Is there a particular park that grants a ranger a special respect unlike any other? (From @Flow397)
I think the parks with the most visitation give the Rangers who work there special respect. Like working at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Its too chaotic for me!
Q9: Why are park budgets continually slashed when our parks are so popular? (From @mbybee)
This is definitely way over my head, as a visitor, you actually have more say than I do as an employee. Weird huh? I find it beyond frustrating! I don’t think the nation completely realizes the benefits of National Parks, how much money actually goes into the surrounding communities because of it. The best thing to do is vote, donate, and VISIT! Attend Ranger programs, write comment card, write your congressmen and women. Take your friends, your family with you to parks. Have your kids invite friends who have never been to them! Find the really small historical or monument parks next to you and let your neighbors (or Facebook) know about them. You have a bigger voice than you realize. 🙂
Q10: What are examples of the weirdest questions you’ve ever been asked? (From @cayonology)
This season has surprisingly been a pretty quiet one for silly questions, but I do have a page about the ones I have gotten in the past! The most frequently asked questions are where are the bears and where can we see moose? What is the schedule for Old Faithful? I’m sorry I don’t have too many at the top of my head! But I will be sure to update twitter and blog with them as they come.
Q:11 What are your most and least favorite things about our job? (From @karenl_m)
I love helping visitors connect to their National Park! Being a part of their memories and making their visit just a little bit better. I however dislike the part that comes with any customer service job….. when the customer gets angry with you. Or when I have to yell/tell visitors about rules they are breaking. Its always awkward.
If anyone ever has any question feel free to ask me!