Outreach opening: A job of storytelling, coordination and education

Andrea has been the outreach coordinator in our New York office. Here she and children explore for worms, insects, amphibians, and birds at the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone during Zone into Nature, a program series that Andrea organized and facilitated.
Andrea has been the outreach coordinator in our New York office. Here she and children explore for worms, insects, amphibians, and birds at the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone during Zone into Nature, a program series that Andrea organized and facilitated.

Andrea has been the outreach coordinator in our New York office. Here she and children dig for worms, insects, amphibians, and birds at the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone during Zone into Nature, a program series that Andrea organized and facilitated. Photo courtesy of Andrea.

From my buried corner at the New York Field Office, I can hear intermittent, muffled phone conversations, the faint tattoo of fingers upon keyboards, and occasional exchanges animating reactions to newly received emails or recent phone interchanges.

Across the seasonally shifting parking lot, in our primary building, faces bop between offices, pausing for warmly quipped exchanges at the secretarial station. Innovation flies in tandem with respect, leading desk-side questions to efficient answers or collaborative brainstorming.

I’m humbled to have spent the past year doing outreach alongside these diligent biologists who carry dedication in one hand and wit in the other, but I am eager to open this opportunity to another outreach professional who desires to grow and serve through this independent AmeriCorps placement as NYFO Outreach Coordinator.

Over the past year, NYFO has kick-started my career within the juncture of my loves of nature, children, creativity, and communication. As the days lengthened last spring, a list of upcoming projects engulfed me. I simultaneously recruited local naturalists to lead hands-on nature programs for youth, planned the New York State Fair display, and learned how to manipulate website updates, all while scrambling to arm myself for the expedited bustle of the encroaching field season.

Andrea designed and staffed the NYFO display at the New York State Fair. Photo courtesy of Andrea.

Andrea designed and staffed the NYFO display at the New York State Fair. Photo courtesy of Andrea.

Amidst the barrage of government acronyms and previously unheard names of people and species, I felt the hubbub escalate as my ears struggled to assign meaning to a familiar language that had somehow translated all consequential terms into esoteric babbling.

Despite my initial confusion, the experience began to decode itself and to slide into a manageable madness. In other environments, being surrounded by supremely competent individuals who speak fluent jargon, are constantly consumed by ten tasks, and appear to have been perfectly performing their assigned responsibilities since the day they began to drink water—a substance that they were likely already aware was traced with Contaminants of Emerging Concern—would have sent me, a fresh college graduate without an established sheath of protective cynicism, running back to an academic institution that would further my coddled sense of adequacy.

However, professional prowess isn’t the only trait ubiquitously emblazoned upon the NYFO staff. They are genuinely good people who attend to the well-being of the environment as well as to that of their fellow staff members. The NYFO staff cares.

Andrea on an excursion to document field work -- eagles in this case! Photo courtesy of Andrea.

Andrea on an excursion to document field work — eagles in this case! Photo courtesy of Andrea.

Within this setting, I spent a year developing my understanding of conservation while using previously gained communication skills and amassing valuable experiences in areas that I had not yet explored.

Here are a few personal undertakings:

  • I recruited local naturalists to lead interactive sessions for Zone into Nature, a weekly program encouraging kids to tangibly explore the outdoors at the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone, a “natural playscape” co-sponsored by NYFO. I also facilitated the programs, preparing the site, welcoming parents and children upon arrival, and visually documenting the event for publicity.
  • Under the tutelage of our information technology guru, I performed website updates and have begun converting our website to a new format.
  • I developed a pollinator display for the New York State Fair, interacting with over 3000 individuals as I staffed the booth alongside NYFO biologists.
  • I maintained the Facebook page throughout the year, highlighting a variety of restoration projects, environmental quality studies, and endangered species protection efforts.
  • Leading Upper Susquehanna Conservation Alliance’s Outreach Work Group, I have facilitated the development of internal and external communication approaches, serving as liaison between alliance leadership and the outreach team.

As I prepare to leave this set of responsibilities, NYFO is seeking a professional who will not settle into my previously carved position, but who will energetically and innovatively reinvent the Outreach Coordinator position through their own approach to conservation communication. Find the job description at http://1.usa.gov/1G0dJMt. If you want more information, please call 607-753-9334 or email maryellen_vandonsel@fws.gov.

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