Meet Your Ranger: Amy Thompson
Our Meet Your Ranger series introduces you to the many amazing people who support your OBX national parks every day!
Hometown: Versailles, Kentucky
Education: M.S. in Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington; B.S. in Biology, Campbellsville University
Position: Supervisory Biological Technician, Ocracoke District
Where you’ll find her: Ocracoke Island — on the beach, at the Pony Pens and in the office
Other National Parks she’s worked at:
I also worked at Mammoth Cave National Park when I lived in Kentucky. There, I assisted with a research project that assessed the success of artificial roosting habitat for the endangered Indiana Bats.
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge isn’t a National Park, but I feel it’s worth sharing that I interned there in the summer of 2011. This internship was my first experience working on the Outer Banks. It not only paved the way for me to work with my favorite National Park, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but also introduced me to my husband, Will Thompson. Will and I met during a volunteer opportunity, banding Brown Pelicans on a dredge spoil islands in the Pamlico Sound. Nothing says true romance like being covered in bird poop!
What do you like most about the Outer Banks?
What I like the most about the Outer Banks is the wildlife diversity. You can walk outside and encounter anything! Just the other day, I saw a juvenile Bald Eagle regally perched on the Ramp 67 post while Bottlenose Dolphins jumped and played in the surf. I also love the fact that we’re located right where two major ocean currents converge (the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current). The nutrient mixing that occurs at Cape Point creates more of an opportunity to see both offshore and nearshore species of fish, marine mammals and birds.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
How do I answer this? No day is typical on the Outer Banks! Outside the office, my duties range from performing routine tasks like assessing suitable nesting habitat, protecting nesting shorebirds and sea turtles, mapping out the tide lines on the beach, to more life and death situations like responding to sea turtle and marine mammal strandings.
Every summer, I also lead a team of Biological Science Technicians in these tasks. I feel privileged to share the importance of this work with a new generation of scientists. Inside the office, I report on our field work and analyze the data we collect, as well as supervise the work of seasonal staff and volunteers. Working inside the office may sound less appealing, but I enjoy applying the scientific data to the practical work of the Seashore’s management.
What inspired you to follow this career path?
Growing up, I always loved exploring outside. I would pick up every turtle, salamander or frog I could get my hands on. My innate love for wildlife made it easy for me to decide which direction I would go; it was never a hard question for me.
In the third grade, I remember watching a documentary on the Kentucky Education Television and seeing a marine biologist scuba-diving with sea turtles. Right then and there was when I decided I would pursue marine biology.
After I graduated from Campbellsville University in Kentucky, I set out to increase my knowledge and skillset in the marine sciences. I bounced between North Carolina and Florida taking internships and seasonal positions until I received a permanent job with Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, working primarily in manatee conservation. A few years later, graduate school brought me back to North Carolina where I received my M.S. in Marine Biology at UNCW. Graduate school was such a vital experience to getting me to where I am today!
What do you like most about working in your position with the Outer Banks National Parks?
I love the fieldwork and the diversity of my responsibilities. It’s very rewarding and exciting to be a part of different projects that implement science to aid management decisions. Some of my work that aids in research-driven management involves mapping shorelines to document erosion, conducting wintering shorebird surveys to understand how migratory birds use the Seashore and responding to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings, which contribute to our understanding of their ecology.
I also enjoy the work camaraderie. I work with like-minded people who also strive to protect all the Seashore’s natural and cultural resources and provide educational experiences to visitors. Through different projects in the park, I have opportunities to network with different agencies and organizations – Outer Banks Forever being one of them! I feel the most energized and motivated when I’m around others who experience the same passion to protect and preserve our parks.
What is a favorite memory you have from working at the Outer Banks parks?
My favorite memory of working at Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the first time I witnessed a female sea turtle lay her eggs on an early morning turtle patrol. Etched on my heart is the phenomenal sight of such a massive creature, returning to the beach to lay eggs that will eventually hatch, determined to survive against the odds stacked against them. This memory will always inspire me to continue this important work.
Why should people care about their Outer Banks National Parks?
People should care about the Outer Banks National Parks because the Outer Banks is unlike any other place; it’s filled to the brim with beautiful wildlife and a rich history. Our very existence depends upon the diversity of species on our planet, and, like all the National Parks, OBX national parks provide us with a way to preserve and protect our beautiful planet.
What advice do you have for young girls wanting to get into this similar field?
Get as much experience as possible. Take seasonal jobs and internships that challenge you and help you realize your talents. These experiences will allow you to discover your passion. Once you find your passion, don’t lose sight of it. Remember who you are and why you care about the things you do and never be afraid to share that passion with other people.