Ranger Taylor at the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. An iron railing and marshlands can be seen in the background.

Ranger Taylor having a blast at the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse! Photo: Taylor Hegler

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.     

Hometown: This is always a loaded question as I was a military kid due to my father’s service in the United States Coast Guard, so we moved constantly. But I was born in Peoria, Illinois, and it’s where the large majority of my family lives now. The longest I’ve lived anywhere was my time spent in Marquette, Michigan – so I consider myself an honorable “Yooper” as well. 

Program of study: I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Northern Michigan University and a Master of History with a concentration in Public History from Southern New Hampshire University. 

Position in our Outer Banks national parks: Fully remote Park Ranger in the Interpretation Division supporting the division’s virtual media and visitation. 

Where you can be found: Geographically, just north of one of the greatest cities in the world…New Orleans! When I’m not at my home office, you can find me walking the neighborhood listening to music, reading any historical fiction novel I can get my hands on (always a real book…never an eReader), perfecting a set list of karaoke hits (it’s all about the performance), or experiencing a new restaurant while in search of the world’s best bowl of queso (suggestions always welcome!). 

Other national parks you have worked at: Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. 

Currently listening to/reading/watching: Outlander” in every form always and forever. 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

Ranger Taylor (right) and her daughter Lillian (left).

Ranger Taylor (right) and her daughter Lillian (left). Photo: Taylor Hegler

Ranger Taylor (left) and her daughter Evelyn (right).

Ranger Taylor (left) and her daughter Evelyn (right). Photo” Taylor Hegler

I love spending time with my daughters, Lillian (7) and Evelyn (2), reading books together, watching movies, playing Barbies, and singing karaoke – we’re big fans of karaoke in my house. When I’m not focusing on the girls, my favorite thing to do is take a long bath and listen to my favorite podcast, “Crime Junkie.” I’m a total armchair detective. 

What do you like most about the Outer Banks?  

I’ve taken one trip out to the Outer Banks to do my first site visit. I had never been before, so I had no idea what to expect outside of what I’d seen on television. One thing that I could never get over during the week I spent there was the absolute beauty of the sunrise over the Seashore and the marshlands. America has such a vast and diverse landscape and I’ve seen many sunrises in my years traveling, but I’d have to say that sunrise in the Outer Banks is one at the top of the list.  

But the thing I love most about the Outer Banks, and particularly the Outer Banks Group of parks, are the people who work there. I’ve experienced so much kindness since I’ve joined the team. Everyone who works for these parks respects each other and their thoughts and opinions on how we do what we do and how we can take strides to be better. From day one I was viewed as a part of the team, despite living 1,000 miles away. This is one of the greatest teams that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and I’m looking forward to doing great work with them over the next four years. 

How did you end up in your current position with the National Park Service? 

I moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, while I was in the middle of finishing up my master’s degree. I was scrolling Facebook one day when I noticed that Vicksburg National Military Park had posted about a Pathways Student Internship opportunity. I had never really considered the National Park Service, and, particularly, had never considered working in anything involving the Civil War – admittedly, it’s not the first cup of tea that I would choose. However, I was looking for a way back into the public history field after having taken a break when I became a mother. Prior to having my first child, I had spent nine years in the field. Fortunately for me, I interviewed, landed the internship, and was able to spend eight months learning anything and everything about the National Park Service, including its career opportunities, all the while completing my master’s thesis with the park.  

At the conclusion of my internship, I was fortunate enough to land a Park Ranger position at Vicksburg with collateral duties in Volunteer Program Management and Youth and Education Programming. It was perfect – especially the youth and education programming component. The reason why I chose the field that I did was to inspire future historians and public stewards. My goal in this career is to spark that interest of history in the next generation the way it was sparked for me through countless trips to historic homes and museums.  

After spending four years at Vicksburg with one of those years spent alone with the girls due to my husband’s military service, it was time to seek employment elsewhere. Fortunately for me, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Cape Hatteras National Seashore had just created a fully remote Park Ranger position to assist with their virtual platforms and program creation. I applied and the rest is history! This position allows me the flexibility necessary for my lifestyle and gives me the opportunity to expand my skillset while supporting a stellar team from afar. 

What does a typical workday or work week look like for you?  

Ranger Taylor in front of her computer.

Ranger Taylor working remotely! Photo: Taylor Hegler

I’m laughing as I’m answering this because my workday/work week is not nearly as exciting as many of the other rangers featured. I spend a lot of time monitoring multiple park social media pages, editing and creating pages on park websites, and working on projects as they are presented to me. An important part of my job is communication with supervisors and coworkers, so a good chunk of my time is spent checking in with them and making sure we are all on the same page with the status of projects. I mentioned earlier that my position is a shared position with Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, so half of my workweek is spent with their team as well accomplishing similar goals. 

What is a favorite memory you have from your time working with our Outer Banks national parks? 

Ranger Taylor in front of the Wright Brothers Monument at Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Ranger Taylor in front of the Wright Brothers Monument at Wright Brothers National Memorial. Photo: Taylor Hegler

My favorite part of my trip out to the Outer Banks, aside from meeting the staff there, was the day that I visited Wright Brothers National Memorial.  

When I was preparing for my trip, I thought for sure that my favorite locations would be either one of the many lighthouses or life-saving service stations (my family is Coast Guard and I worked for a maritime museum and lighthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for many years), or Fort Raleigh given its Tudor-era connections (Tudor history is my first love – justice for Queen Anne!). Wright Brothers was at the bottom of my list because I had never connected with the subject matter and all the talk about mathematics and aerodynamics wasn’t really a part of my wheelhouse. However, once I was there and actually walking the very grounds where that historic first flight was made, my opinion completely changed. 

Sure, I’m still not a fan of mathematics or aerodynamics, but the powerful human story there, the sheer will, determination, and ingenuity of two brothers to make the seemingly impossible possible, and how that determination changed the world as we know it – it just blew me away. 

Why are our Outer Banks national parks important?   

The Outer Banks national parks are important because they offer so much of history and many themes that define America — discovery, ingenuity, bravery, determination, and resiliency. The Outer Banks are a place of beauty, a place for appreciation, a place for wonder, and a place of reflection. They really do embody the spirit of America while also offering people a place of refuge, mindfulness, fun, and relaxation. I feel very honored to be a part of their story.    

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or about our Outer Banks national parks? 

Given my art history background, I’m a big proponent of art in the national parks! I’m hoping that throughout my time with the Seashore, I can use that passion to expand upon our interpretive offerings. Stay tuned for great things!