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Do You Want to Work for the National Park Service?

Many people don’t realize the broad range of professions that have applications in ocean park stewardship. The National Park Service employs all kinds of explorers, adventures, and inventors – in the form of scientists, historians, anthropologists, landscape architects, and more – to explore the unknown, invent novel solutions for new problems, and help us develop a greater understanding of our national parks and our world. These park professionals work together in teams that are also composed of specialists from a diverse range of fields, including archaeology, geology, oceanography, electrical engineering, marine biology, law enforcement, education, ecology, hydrology, machine operation, and zoology.

One of the most critical jobs of ocean park stewards is to connect people to the ocean environment and to the opportunities the park offers. Because the underwater parts of the park are out of sight and often out of reach, however, this can often be a challenge. Artists, writers, and educators are some of the most effective park stewards in this regard, because they can make what seems remote feel inviting instead. For example, the landscape artists of the 19th century brought the far-off western landscapes of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon to life for Americans on the east coast. These artists created paintings that both inspired people to protect these distant landscapes and encouraged them to visit and experience the parks in person. Today’s artists have utilized modern technology to create powerful media that connect people to ocean park wonders, including 3-D IMAX films and live interactive broadcasts from the bottom of the sea. Could you join the ranks of these creative men and women?

Some forward-thinking universities are developing trans-disciplinary courses of study that involve nearly every department on campus, in order to better educate the many professions required to care for and operate a national park. These curricula include the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to design, provide, and maintain safe and enjoyable visitor facilities and services. They also address the need to care for historical structures and to sustain the health of coastal and ocean environments.

There are many ways to join the community of people who care for ocean parks. Besides full-time, professional positions, there are opportunities available for citizen scientists, interns, and volunteers. For example, the Great Annual Fish Count, a citizen science program for recreational divers, was begun at Channel Islands National Park, CA, in 1992 to help assess the health of fish populations in parks, sanctuaries, and other marine areas. The fish count, which continues to this day, is meant to engage citizens in the assessment of fish diversity and to focus national and international media attention on the issue. Every July, thousands of divers and their friends and families participate in the program, currently managed by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation in Key Largo, FL.

For Further Reading

National Park Service Career Opportunities

Educational Opportunities for National Park Service Partners

"What's It Like to Work for the National Park Service?" Interview

Last updated: May 25, 2017


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