Text version of video - STEM Career:  Park Naturalist


(text on screen)

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STEM Career Connections

(park naturalist narration)

My name is Greg Kearns and I'm a naturalist here at Patuxent River Park for the Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission.


A park naturalist is a person or biologist, it can be, who studies nature and relays that to the public, interprets it, and we are also called nature interpreters, that's another thing.  But, we study all aspects of nature.  It can be from frogs and turtles to birds, to mammals and many different areas, plants what have you, but the main thing is to educate the public about the important things of nature.

I think the coolest thing is having my office out here behind me.  When you look out and see fantastic, beautiful place like this, it's in Prince George's county, it's a real gem of an area in the whole state of Maryland.   It's the largest fresh water tidal marsh.

(bird chirps)

Birds and the study of ornithology has always been an interest of mine since I was a kid.  I think they're one of the most diverse groups of invertebrates on the planet.  There are over 9,000 species of birds on the planet, and seeing them in your everyday life, you know you look around you, birds you hear them, you see them everywhere.  And I think that studying them really is an important part of being a naturalist because they’re so widespread in so many different habitats.

By studying these populations I'm able to see a better picture of what's going on in the environment around them because birds are really like a test indicator of environmental health.

(park naturalist talking to park visitors)

Even though they're capable of feeding themselves, they're trying to still attract the parents’ attention to bring them a fish in there.

(park naturalist narration)

But getting hands on with wildlife to me, in my particular position as a naturalist slash biologist, I'm doing field research too, and I think that's one of the greatest things that you can say about the job is getting the opportunity to hold young birds or ospreys, adults or young birds in your hand, and I think people really take a lot away from that, and a lot of people - I took over 350 people out this year alone, just this summer in the last few weeks, to handle the birds.  And it's something that people really want to do to get closer to nature, and I think that's probably one of the greatest things. 

And my reward is seeing people happy, educated, and have a better appreciation for nature.
I always tell students that come to me, I tell them, you need to start volunteering as soon as you can, or get a paid job if it's possible.  It's difficult in these times, but at the very least you get that volunteer experience and it helps you determine whether this is really what you want to pursue.

So those are the key things, is get that experience,  get out there and volunteer in the field whether you want to be a vet or a naturalist, and really see what it's like, that job, and if it's something that really excites you and you enjoy doing.