Kyra Neal

AGNR Featured Alum

Kyra Neal stands in front of trail
Kyra surveying a trail for a future erosion control project

Name: Kyra Neal (2019 alum)

Major: Environmental Science and Policy, Wildlife Ecology and Management concentration

Minor: Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

What was your favorite UMD Class?

Wetland Ecology (ENST450) with Christina Maietta, she was an incredibly engaged professor, there were both field and classroom portions, and it really fit the caliber of what I think all college classes should be. Environmental Law (ENSP300) was a close second as Professor Goger is an absolute rockstar to have as a professor, I learned so much in that course. 

What is your current job title and company?

I am a Park Ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. FWS runs the National Wildlife Refuge System as NPS runs the National Parks for comparison. 

What are your major job/position responsibilities?

Though people think Park Rangers are frolicking through the forest all day, that is not true a majority of the time. Most of my day is doing visitor center operations, which entails helping visitors find trails, buy passes for our lands, give information on upcoming events, and deliver our mission to the public: “Working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people”. My other duties include collecting and processing visitor data from our trail and traffic counters, creating and updating refuge maps, developing and presenting environmental education and interpretive programs, working with our amazing volunteers, designing and updating signage for interpretation as well as for ease of use for the refuge. 

What do you enjoy most about your job/position?

There are SO many things I love about this job. I love having uplifting conversations with visitors and having them leave with a smile to go recreate. I love getting to go hit the trails to replace and evaluate signs. The outdoors are my passion but being surrounded by my passionate coworkers makes my energy for this field even greater. 

What do you dislike the most about your job/position?

Working for the federal government has amazing benefits as well as job security, but as a federal agency there are many rules and regulations we have to comply with. Assuring we follow all of these rules can really slow projects down, create confusion, and staunch the flow of creative and innovative ideas. In a nutshell, all of the red tape. But, I try not to let it get me down! 

What advice would you give to current students pursuing a career in Agriculture and Natural Resources?

STUDY GIS, GIS experience will set you apart from other applicants in fields of both ENSP and ENST. Plus, mapping is fun! TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDENT PROGRAMS. There are so many opportunities available only to students, once you start college the clock starts ticking for you to take advantage of these programs. Programs I did with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) are a significant reason for why I have this job. Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), Directorate Fellowship Program (DFP), Americorps; all of these programs offer opportunities for people from all walks of life to travel, learn, earn, and work outdoors. One last piece of advice, talk to people, ask questions. Approach your professors after class and ask them about their career, call someone in the career you want (no you don’t have to know them), ask if you can shadow them. People want to help students find their passion, sometimes you have to be bold and create opportunities for yourself!

Kyra can be contacted through email: Kyra_Neal@fws.gov