Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Introducing the Darke County Parks Naturalists

Darke County Parks had vast staff changes in the past year and is happy to introduce the newest staff member Kathi McQueen, hired in January as the Volunteer Coordinator/Naturalist. Kathi grew up in the Adams County farmland and began her career in finance. In 2006 she returned to school to pursue her outdoor passion, earning her masters in zoology from Miami University, and eventually worked as an AmeriCorps naturalist at Five Rivers MetroParks. Her favorite things so far has been meeting and working with enthusiastic volunteers, and she looks forward to warmer seasons with more park visitors and to learning about the historical ties to the land so ingrained in this county. In addition to coordinating volunteers, she teaches the monthly Park PALS program, and manages the animal care at Darke County Parks and loves working with the reptiles and amphibians. In her spare time Kathi reads, hikes, and spends time with her husband and young daughter.

Naturalist Hannah Linebaugh is also new to the park district. A native of Darke County, she grew up exploring, hunting, and enjoying nature near Rossburg and reading every historical fiction book she could find. In 2014 she earned an English degree from Wright State University and worked as a substitute teacher before joining the Darke County Parks team. She loves inspiring others by sharing her passions for history and the outdoors. Her favorite memory so far has been camping with the long hunters at Prairie Days in full historic style. In addition to regular naturalist duties, Hannah writes the park press releases and teaches the Jr. Naturalist program.

Naturalist Mandy Martin has recently rejoined the Darke County Parks family after some time away. She started at Penn State University knowing she loved nature and wanted to teach. This led her to Ohio State Parks and in turn led to Darke and Miami County Parks. Mandy is the resident Monarch butterfly expert, and she loves sharing her love of nature with her community. Mandy heads up the “Naturalist in the Classroom” program and teaches the monthly preschool Little Explorers and Seedlings programs.

Chief Naturalist Robb Clifford grew up going to Aullwood Audubon Center. He studied natural resources at Ohio State University and worked seasonally for Darke County Parks for two summers before being hired full time in 2007. His favorite memory from working at the park district was the year there was a “perfect” snowfall occurring during the Winter Wonderland event. The glow of the luminaries had a mystical effect. He loves to hike and teach about birds and medicinal plants. Robb schedules programs, manages the digital media, edits the Nature Notes newsletter, and leads the majority of the nature hikes.

The entire staff encourages everyone to come out and enjoy the parks’ trails, programs, and community events this year. For any questions about parks, programs, or to volunteer, please call the Nature Center at (937) 548-0165, or email the Darke County Park District at info@darkecountyparks.org.

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