This summer, I got the chance to be an Interpretation (Interp) Ranger out at the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. I heard about the position through a listserv I signed up for at Club Day at UC Davis. I wasn’t actually in the club, since they required dues and I couldn’t make the meetings, but I still got information from them about opportunities like this. The application process was simple and fast: just a cover letter and a resume. The hiring process was lengthy, though, with lots of official forms to fill out and some late night phone calls.
Formally, my position is titled Seasonal Ranger-STEP. The STEP stands for Student Temporary Employment Program, a federal program that extends across all (or at least most) domestic federal offices. It’s designed for students with at least a half-time course load in high school, college, grad school, technical/vocational school, or professional school with a GPA of at least 2.5. Its sister program SCEP (Student Career Employment Program) is designed for students to get work experience directly related to their career field of interest. If you work more than a certain number of hours in the program and successfully finish your education, you get a guaranteed full-time job!
Day-to-day, the life of an Interp Ranger looks something like this:
1) Open the Visitor Center: This includes making coffee, answering emails, and processing camping permits
2) Work the Visitor Center front desk: Usually consists of giving people directions, taking camping reservations and writing permits, and answering any questions visitors have about the park
3) Work on independent projects: I have two projects this summer, both dealing with the rich military history of the GGNRA. One is compiling a summarized version of that history for the training of new interns/volunteers/employees; the other is designing a field guide to the military structures that dot the GGNRA lands. The idea of that one is to give people a tool to figure out what they’re looking at when they come across a military structure while out on a hike or a drive. I chose both of my projects out of my interest in military history and my coworkers and supervisor have been really supportive of them both.
4) Doing interpretation: This is the really fun stuff (other than the independent projects). Interpretation is the process of taking some resource—natural (e.g. the geology of the Marin Headlands) or cultural (e.g. a gun battery used for coastal defense during World War II)—and telling its story to the public. I’ve done interpretation in two main areas in the Headlands this summer: the Point Bonita Light House and Battery Townsley. If you’d like more information about either of them, feel free to call me (or a coworker) at (415) 331-1540!
5) Close the Visitor Center: There’s a tight-knit group out here at the Headlands, made of employees and volunteers alike. Everybody’s warm and welcoming, and while some have their own personal spins on history that we try to iron out, everyone’s here because they love it and they want to be. Everyone on my work team has been flexible and friendly and a joy to work alongside. Occasionally something will get hung up in government bureaucracy or policy change, but everyone I’ve met is more than willing to teach others how to navigate official forms so their goals get realized.
When I got this internship, I thought it would be a fun thing to do for the summer in a place I love, but not something I’d consider as a career. After working with amazing people and learning so much about this amazing place, I’ve found I love ranger work. I still want to pursue the educational goals I came into college with—namely getting a graduate degree in Soil Science—but I’ve been shown another option of what I can do after that. Hopefully I’ll get to come back here next summer, or work in another park. I’m being put on intermittent status after I finish my full-time tour of duty, so I’ll be able to work some weekends and school breaks during the rest of the year.
Signing off from a happy place in government employment,
Ranger Whitney Krupp, SRA Class of 2011
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