As I have mentioned in a previous article, change is inevitable — and an important part of any nature center, be it through habitat, wildlife species, or staff. On the management side of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge’s operation, we have seen many changes over the past decade, and we will continue to see them as our program grows and we move the conservation needle forward.
Within the past year, both of our Natural Resource Technicians and our Natural Resource Specialist moved on to new professional endeavors. Each time we have a vacancy, we take the opportunity to build on the previous employee’s efforts while looking for ways to diversify our collective skill set.
We were excited to have Jennifer Matthews rejoin our team full time in April 2021 as one of our Natural Resource Technicians. Jennifer graduated from Tarleton State University in December 2020 with a degree in Wildlife Science and a minor in Biology. Prior to graduating college, Jennifer spent many hours at the Nature Center, volunteering and then working as a seasonal intern for two summers. “Even before volunteering,” she says, “I loved coming to the Nature Center to hike the trails and admire the bison herd.” Now, she has the opportunity to admire the bison more closely since one of her responsibilities is to look after them. While attending Tarleton, Jennifer served as an officer in the Tarleton Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, which led her to volunteer with various organizations throughout North Texas, helping her grow as a young professional. Prior to graduating, Jennifer spent the summer in West Texas working as an intern for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area. She was able to work closely with the staff there, learning different management techniques in a completely different ecoregion. “I believe the knowledge and experience I have gained will help me perform my duties at the Refuge Service Center and beyond,” she states. Jennifer hopes that her hard work and dedication will lead to a better Nature Center for all to enjoy as she spends most of her days performing general maintenance tasks and making improvements around the property.
More recently, we were able to bring Haley Parrish on board to fill our second Natural Resource Technician position. She is proving to be a great addition to our team. Haley graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Conservation. Not only does she have the education, she has the background. Haley grew up in Midwestern Ohio on a farm, tending to livestock and assisting her dad with a tree trimming company. She attributes her work ethic to the chores and responsibilities she had growing up. While attending college in Idaho, she held several technician positions with the U.S. Forest Service. After graduation, Haley spent some time as a boiler operator, learning to weld — a great skill to bring to the Nature Center. Most recently, she spent a couple of years at Mineral Wells State Park as a Maintenance Specialist III/Trails Ranger. The skills she learned overseeing the park’s trail maintenance will be a great addition to our team’s skill set. While working at the state park, Haley was responsible for performing basic repairs to the facilities, including plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and mechanical systems. She also assisted with wildlife surveys and operated mowers, tractors, saws, and various other small engines. Haley has been a joy to work with these first few weeks, and we are excited to see how she can assist us in moving the Nature Center forward.
Change is something that we at the Nature Center embrace. We are looking forward to seeing how our new staff will continue the efforts started by others while making their own mark throughout the property. Soon, we will be introducing our new Natural Resource Specialist, so stay tuned to see who else we will be adding to our team.