Friday, November 21, 2008

(3) Serpentine Summers

Back in Columbus, during the end of my sophomore year, I chose a
major in Ohio State's "Wild" curriculum. I figured that it would be
best to work into what I call an umbrella field that encompasses
generally the kind of work I might do as a park ranger. Hence I chose
a field entitled "Natural Resources Management and Policy." That's
a mouthful, but I narrowed it down to its initials: NRMP.

Essentially NRMP is about managing our natural resources. It's an
interdisciplinary systems approach, with general courses ranging from
biotic resources, to physical/earth resources to social sciences. It's
about balancing the needs of the public with the ability of ecosystems
to support water, soil, forests, wildlife, fish, and recreational resources.
This major involved a mighty wide swath--but, as I said, I looked at
NRMP as an umbrella field that would provide me with a good
overview as a park ranger.

Additionally, I chose my minors carefully--two, in my case: Ecology
and Forestry. These still provided a wide swath, but they were also
specialized. What I was after was to try to be both broad and deep!

Ecology is the science that considers the links between living
organisms and their environment. Essentially it is the study of
ecosystems. An ecosystem can include both non-living and living
factors. Breaking it down might make it easier to grasp.

* Abiotic (non-living) factors are physical in nature, that provide
the conditions and commodities for life, are occasionally modified
over time, and set limits for living organisms in the environment.
Some of these factors include climate, seasonal change, light,
temperature, energy, and wind. Nutrient cycles--such as carbon,
nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen--also provide for living organisms.

• Biotic (living) factors include all living organisms, from simple to
complex, that can be modified by non-living factors. There are
bio-interactions that can involve cooperation and dependency
unto competition and antagonism. Everything changes, thus
"adaptation" nearly becomes a Law for Survival. Ultimately each
living species finds its own "niche" within a given ecosystem.

Forestry--put plain and simple--is the study on how to manage
forests and their adjunct resources. It's about learning how to
protect and enhance a habitat for wildlife diversity. It's about
maintaining watersheds to protect water yield and quality as
well as soil productivity. It's about protecting the forest from
adverse impacts, whether wildfire, insect invasions, or disease.
Finally, too, it's about enforcing the laws and regulations that
promote the survival of the forest.

Anyway, that's a bare synopsis of my academic major and minors.
I figured with this background in NRMP, along with Ecology and
Forestry, as well as my internship at the Serpent Mound, such might
look fairly good on my resume when I put in my application to join
the National Park Service.

So at the start of my senior year--with the help of my director of
studies at Ohio State--I began pulling together information about
the National Park Service and what would be required to be hired
as a park ranger.

All I can say is that it is a good thing I started looking into the
requirements needed early on into my senior year. Back then
I had to take the Civil Service exam--and I had to drive up to
Cleveland in order to take it. This exam is basic for anyone
who wishes to move into a Federal Government career.

Of course you could flunk, and that would be the end of it. But
the points you make on the exam determines your General
Service rating, sweetly called the "GS-Rate." There's a part of
the exam provided for non-professional ranks; and, then there's
the professional part of the exam. And if you wanted to be a
park ranger with the National Parks Service, well you had to
put on points.

Happily, I managed a good number of points. Still, it was made
clear to me that finding a professional position with National Parks
would prove highly competitive. Your resume was important, in
that your academic background played an important part when
it came to selection. As it turned out my academic major in NRMP,
plus my two minors in Ecology and Forestry, were beautifully
tailored towards being selected. I also figured that my internship
at the Serpent Mound might prove to be a "plus" as well.

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