Important work: Natural resources careers abound

Gretchen Steele Middleton Assists Idnr Fisheries Biologist Randy Sauer During Alligator Gar Restocking Efforts On The Lower Kaskaskia7025
Essentially two different natural resources careers in action – a site super and fisheries biologist. (Gretchen Steele)

For the f irst time in what seems like years, we are finally starting to see job openings in a multitude of natural resources-related careers. My social media feeds and email inbox has been filled with job opening announcements from state and federal agencies, universities, and conservation groups.

Most notably, the number of openings now being posted regularly by the Illinois DNR.

Every interview I’ve had with IDNR Director Colleen Callahan since she took office has had a segment about the staffing crisis facing our public lands sites. I‘ve spoken with so many good, committed employees who were burning out because there just wasn’t enough of them left to go around. As staff members left, vacancies went unfilled and existing staff simply did the best they could to pick up the slack.

Site superintendents took on additional sites. Biologists took on additional counties. Conservation Police Officers found themselves covering more and more ground and trying to patrol larger areas adequately.

During each of those discussions, Director Callahan acknowledged that staffing was a priority. She also would explain how hard the agency was working to improve staffing.

But it was during the recent budget committee hearings, that Director Callahan made it abundantly clear to legislators. IDNR was vastly understaffed. She explained exactly how it impacts the agency as a whole. Perhaps more importantly, how it affects the public perception of the agency and the economic impacts that short-staffed IDNR sites have in many areas.

So here we are today – COVID and its associated difficulties seem to be finally in our rearview mirror. Agencies are getting back to work more regularly and adding staff.

For those interested in a career in natural resources, there are several websites to visit regularly to see what is available. My advice would be to check periodically. Most of the time, agencies are adding new positions daily.

State of Illinois – IDNR

University of Illinois – Prairie Research Center/INHS

U.S. Forest Service

Conservation Job Board

Often, it’s good to peruse the websites of local, state, and national conservation groups as well. Many jobs may be relatively short-term and especially suitable for students exploring different areas of interest and study.

No matter how you slice it, if you’ve dreamed of a job working in the outdoors, now is the time to be looking. There are lots to pick from out there right now!

Categories: — — Illinois – Gretchen Steele

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