What do you do?

My teenage son just started high school this year. This was a momentous occasion for him, but also for me as a mom. I think he dealt with the change much better than me. I still feel I am too young to have a high schooler! However, the white hairs on my head are a subtle reminder of me needing to face reality.

My husband and I have always stressed to our children the importance of a good education and striving to be the best version of yourself. We have encouraged our children to try new things and never give up. However, I have noticed over the last 6 months, we have shifted our conversations toward helping our son as he chooses a career path. Just writing this out makes the process feel so ominous.

Our high school has a wonderful career shadowing program where students can talk with (virtually or in person) someone in their field of interest. They can even spend a day with them to see a snippet of what their job is like. I feel this type of real-world discussion/interaction is important for those trying to choose a career path (or even changing jobs). Some jobs can be idealized or stereotyped, and it is important to have a good understand of what a job entails before you choose your path.

So where am I going with this?

Well, as a person working in the environmental field, my family and friends refer to me as the “tree hugger.” If you asked them what I did, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. They would probably say she spends a lot of time in the woods.

So, I thought it might be fun to share what the Cuyahoga SWCD Natural Resource Program Manager does.

Here goes…..

My job involves a lot of skills - technical expertise, educating others, effective communication, guidance, teamwork, ability to work effectively on your own, accountability, field work, prioritization, problem-solving….. oh, and lots of driving.

The fun part of my job is that I get to be outside from April to December (depending on the weather). Yes, this job involves a lot of field work. So, what is field work? The field work I do focuses on inspections of stormwater control measures or SCMs.

What in the world are SCMs? Generally speaking, they are a type of infrastructure that gets installed on a new development project to help control the water that runs off the hard surfaces during a rainstorm. Some SCMs often found throughout the County include stormwater basins, bioretention areas, and permeable pavement. Each SCM has features that are important to its overall function. Many communities are required by the State of Ohio to make sure SCMs are working correctly. My job is to look at these features and provide recommendations for ensuring they function properly.

Each day in the field can be completely different. The environment changes from site to site and day to day. I might be walking through the woods checking on a conservation easement without seeing one person. Don’t worry, I’m not lonely, this is when nature usually visits. I might see wild turkeys, a downy woodpecker, a snapping turtle, or bull frog.

At the next site, I might be walking through chest high grasses within a stormwater basin (and checking for ticks as I go). Then, I might be walking along the edge of a beautiful pond within a subdivision. Or even searching for manholes within a parking lot at a grocery store.

The sites I visit are all over the County, from ultra-urban settings to brand new suburbia in the middle of what was once a farm field. So lots of driving. This variety is what makes this job so much fun. It’s never the same thing twice.

I also get the opportunity to interact with all kinds of people. From public officials to private landowners. Yes, as part of my job I am walking through private backyards. Some people are very friendly and curious…. others are not – let’s just say they are not very excited to have me on their property. You never know what you will encounter!

While in the field, I have an electronic tablet that I record all data through notes and pictures. Which really helps with communication to those that will be fixing or maintain a practice. I must be extra careful to protect his equipment when in the field. Water and electronics don’t play well together.

I am not outside every single day. I also have office days where I develop reports which I send to both landowners and communities. There are many hours working on a computer, printing, filing, phone calls, emails, etc.

I can’t forget to mention, a big part of my job is super-sleuthing. What I mean by that is problem-solving. How to fix a physical issue with a practice, how to uncover a feature that is buried in sediment or overgrown vegetation, how to find the right site contact, how to read and interpret engineering plans, how to explain technical details in terms that everyone understands, etc.

I enjoy helping others and, in that respect, this job is very fulfilling. Hope I have inspired some and possibly clarified for others. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to talk about what I do or answer any questions you may have.

Blog Author: Carla Regener, Natural Resources Program Manager

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