Bailey Barber returned to the University of Tennessee at Martin this fall after a summer full of bugs, snakes, birds, poison ivy and mosquito bites. But she wasn't just having fun in the sun - she was also working an intensive internship through the Tennessee Parks Service.
What started out as professor-required community service at Reelfoot Lake State Park evolved into a summer position at Mousetail Landing State Park in Linden through the Seasonal Interpretive Rangers Program. Barber, a senior studying natural resources management with a focus on parks administration, says her experience with the parks service ran the gamut from children's games and family hikes to trail building.
"I had to coordinate the programs. That's what I did all weekend long was programming. I had to make up my own schedule, do all the research for the programs and study for them," she said. "I did invasive species games, survival bracelet programs, and night hikes to find frogs and spiders and owls and snakes. We did canoe tours, and I would talk about the wildlife we would see."
Barber's programs also included making birdfeeders out of pinecones and other natural materials, leading salamander crawls and creek stomps, helping children create rubbings of leaves and animal tracks, and organizing volunteers for special events.
When she wasn't conducting educational programs, Barber was out working in the park with other rangers and student assistants to make sure visitors of all ages could enjoy all Mousetail Landing has to offer.
"I worked with maintenance a lot. … I did trail building over the summer, so I went to the Cumberland Trail and built over 800 feet of trail with a group," she said. "On the weekends, if I was in the office, I registered people's campsites and helped people out. I did trail assessments with one of the rangers one time, so I got to go out and walk the trails and see if they were adequate for other people to hike on. I did a lot of cleanup from storms that rolled through."
Her responsibilities also included caring for the birds of prey featured in her Saturday demonstrations and planning a special Thursday class for adults with mental disabilities.
"I learned a lot while I was there. I had to do a lot of research, but I also learned a lot from the park rangers because they have been doing it for so long," said Barber. "I feel like that's just going to give me a little bit extra in my classes this semester."
Barber is on track to graduate in May 2018 and plans to interview to continue her parks position next summer. The Seasonal Interpretive Rangers Program is often the first step to more permanent parks positions, and Barber is keeping her options open. As far as the specific job opportunities in the field, the possibilities are endless.
"You can pretty much do anything with park maintenance or park ranger (training). … You can do a lot of different things with wildlife too, so you don't have to have a wildlife degree to work in resource management or in captivity for birds and ducks and things like that. You can get jobs in all those fields with a parks degree, so there is a really broad range for what you can do," she said.
Barber encourages other students to not only consider internship opportunities, but to seek feedback from academic advisers and more experienced students.
"Talk to people who have done an internship, but also talk to your adviser. … I'm super thankful that I've done (an internship) because it has helped me a lot. It's helped me grow as a person too, and I've conquered my public speaking fear because I had to be in front of people so much," she said. "It's a great experience. You get to get out there in the field, especially with SIR. You're not stuck in an office all day. You get to go out and do really cool things that you wouldn't get to do if you didn't take that opportunity."
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