Ranger Talk With Elizabeth Gerrits

Welcome back to another Ranger Talk where I interview park rangers from national parks, state parks, and forests! This week we’ve got Elizabeth who is working in the Tetons and is also from Wisconsin!

My goal with this is to hopefully help people that want to work in the parks in the future get an idea of what it takes and help visitors get to know the people that love our parks and help keep them running.

If you want to see more interviews, head over here.  And before we get into it, all the views expressed here are his own and are ot reflective of National Park Service in any way.

Name: Elizabeth Gerrits

Where are you from: Port Washington, WI

Favorite book: Dare to Lead – Brene Brown

If you were a tree, what kind would you be and why: Mountain Maple, because growing up in the mid-west maple trees are pure magic, the bright orange and red light up the forest in the fall and the sweet syrup makes for the most indulgent pancakes. Now living in the mountains the mountain maple reminds me of my two worlds colliding!

What is your dream trip outside of the parks: I’d love to go to Patagonia, maybe climb a little, ski and explore the mountains!

Where do you work (or most recently if you take seasons off) and what do you do: I work for Grand Teton National Park, I do Interpretation in the summer and Education in the winter (two different seasonal positions)

What did you do to get the job (degree?  volunteer experience?  other relevant work experience?): I studied geology in college and landed an internship with the Geological Society of America’s GeoCrops program. So I was a geology interpretive intern at Glacier National Park as my first park gig.

Did you get a ranger job on your first try?  How long did it take if you didn’t? After my internship year I had built enough connections to return the following summer as a full on Park Ranger in Glacier National Park

Have you worked at any other NPS units?  Which was your favorite?: I’ve worked at Glacier National Park, Yosemite National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Favorites are hard… Glacier is my “heart park” – my first park service love. But there is something super special about Grand Teton too!

What is your dream park to work at: Grand Teton!

Why did you want to become a ranger: I honestly did not intentionally become a park ranger, it just fell into my lap. But now that I am doing it, I do it because I believe in the mission of preserving and protecting these special places for future generations.

There is a deep pride that park rangers carry across the board, no matter what park you visit or what the job is. People who work for parks are mission driven individuals who wholeheartedly believe in the work they are doing and want to contribute to something larger than themselves.

How did you get interested in the parks: I visited Grand Teton when I was a junior in college during my geology field camp course (I believe it was my first National Park) and I saw a girl working at the Visitor Center front desk.

I remember looking at her and thinking “I wonder how I could do that job one day”… about a year later I figured it out and was doing it! So I think it was the rocks that drew me in, being in such awe by the mountains and the complex geology.

What do you love most about the parks: I love the raw beauty, adventure and opportunity for personal growth in the outdoors

Top tip for visiting the parks (don’t touch wildlife, go early, avoid holidays, etc): Definitely keep your distance from wildlife, stay in the trails, don’t park on the vegetation/resources, follow the rules, clean up after yourself and others.

Do your research ahead of time, know park rules on camping, backpacking, hiking, road closures, wildlife viewing, etc. Parks work really hard to help people understand the rules but often folks do not read fully – so read the park newspaper!

What’s something most people don’t know about the parks: There are so many people doing scientific research, following wildlife, plants, visitation patterns, assessing resource damage etc.

Most of the time parks have conservancy stores in their visitor centers that donate their proceeds to these research project. So it is really helpful to buy your souvenirs from park stores.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become a ranger? Get an internship or volunteer first, network, find a mentor to help you write your government resume, and call hiring officials to express your interest in a position. Most job postings get hundreds of applicants, it’s important to make yourself known.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the job? My favorite part of the job is helping people understand and connect to the park more deeply and helping them have a memorable trip. AND working outside! My least favorite part is the instability of work, low wages, lack of benefits and difficulty to become a permanent year round employee.

Top five parks so far (state or national): 1) Grand Teton 2) Glacier 3) Zion 4) Capitol reef 5) Yosemite

Coolest park experience you’ve had so far (climbing the Teton, rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, seeing a pack of wolves attack a moose, etc.): Climbing the Grand Teton was cool, but climbing Mount Moran (just north of the Grand Teton) was cooler! It involved paddling across String and Leigh Lakes, then hiking to base camp, climbing and returning! So much fun!

Dream park experience (rim to rim to rim, climb Half Dome, road trip to all the parks, etc): Climb Denali

What is one thing you always bring with you to the parks: my headlamp, don’t want to be caught coming off trail in the dark without it!

Favorite hike or activity in a park, or both: Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton and favorite activity alpine climbing or maybe backcountry skiing! Hard to pick!

If you could only visit one park for the rest of your life, which and why: Grand Teton, it has everything you could ever want to do. River rafting, fishing, road biking, canoeing, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain scrambling, lake bagging, boating, sunbathing on the beach, photography, night sky, wildlife viewing… its the best place!

If you’re a ranger (national park, state park, forest, something else I don’t know about) and want to be featured, fill out the form below!

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