Buffer Preserve welcomes education and outreach specialist

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Dylan Shoemaker, manager of the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, and his staff, welcome their newest team member Kathryn “Katie” Abel, the Preserve’s new resource education specialist.

“What a great addition to our team at the preserve,” Shoemaker said. “Katie’s enthusiasm has been inspirational to us all. Katie’s attitude of ‘let’s get this adventure started’ reminds our staff what a great place we work.”
Arriving recently from Virginia, Katie is happy to be back in northwest Florida. A graduate of the University of West Florida in Pensacola, she had vowed to return to the area as quickly as possible. It has taken longer than she wanted; however, when she saw the job description, she knew it was what she had been waiting for.
Katie and her 17-year-old son Jacob decided to make the “big” move and they haven’t looked back – only to a future in the best part of Florida.
While attending UWF, Katie had a two-year paid Internship studying toxins in the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Bay. She was a biological research intern which enabled her to develop a true love for snorkeling seagrass beds.
Teaching science to seventh graders after returning to her home in Virginia, was a wonderful experience; however, an opportunity to become the fundraising and development director for a river conservation organization was a draw she could not refuse. Escorting donors and members downriver in a canoe through rapids, and helping them avoid hitting rocks, was a challenge at times but rewarding also.
Other interesting jobs Katie enjoyed very much include working for Friends of the National Zoo at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. There, scientists worked with 23 species of endangered or “extinct in the wild” animals onsite to try to improve their survival in the wild. Her duties involved sharing this work with the community through educational school programs and a public science lecture series. She also once worked at a running model of a 1930s working farm, performing farm chores, driving tractors, hauling visitors and sharing all the details about the farm life.
Katie is excited to get to work at the Buffer Preserve. “My first few weeks here have been incredible. The land is all-encompassing with beautiful sights of nature, smells of flowers, sounds of birds,” she said. “I am enjoying learning about the natural processes of the buffer, and how the buffer offers unique support to our local wildlife, including in the bays and ocean. Ensuring plants and animals have wild-lands to sustain them is one of my passions, from the creatures in the sky to the bottom of the sea.”
Her first two weeks have been awesome as she learns about TRAM Tours, the miles of roads and trails, prescribed burning and all the other duties she’s excited to begin.
Katie’s official title is resource education specialist. She will be doing biological field work and education outreach to the community. With her past experiences in the workplace, we expect her to do an outstanding job.
When she’s not at work, Katie enjoys hanging out with friends and family, listening to music, dancing and yoga. Being in nature on long walks, camping, snorkeling, boating or just listening to ocean waves makes her the happiest. She’s also an organizer, always learning and trying new ways to live more earth-friendly, and always having new fun adventures!
Staff at the Preserve feel Katie has made the right choice in joining them in their efforts to make the Preserve be the best it can be. “Proud of her jumping in and trying to help every way she can,” said fellow employee Tony Cole. “Dylan asked her to drive a stick shift in a big truck and she didn’t bat an eye. Her can-do attitude is great.”
We hope you will attend a TRAM Tour and meet and converse with Katie personally. To sign up for the TRAM Tour which occurs on the third Thursday of each month call 850-229-1787. Leave a message and we will return your call. There is no charge for the TRAM Tour; however, you must reserve your seat. The TRAM Tour begins at 9 a.m. ET in the Visitor Center at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve.

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