ZANESVILLE – He teaches wildlife conservation, and he takes it very seriously. He came about it while watching a rare bald eagle.
“It might seem weird,” said Al Parker, “but sitting on a spring wildflower covered hillside and watching the first bald eagle nest in Indiana in 90 years was where it happened. I was waiting for momma eagle to show that she had hatched her eggs by her posture and behavior. It was there I came to the conclusion that no matter how much work I did for rare wildlife, it would not have a lasting impact unless future generations learned to care for them as well.”
Parker-profit taught natural conservation through a non-called Lone Crowist Service, at The Wilds in its education department (he started Wildecamps), at Canoe Creation river, then Zane State College as a wildlife conservation instructor. He’s now an associate professor at ZSC.
“The program is very hands-on,” he explained. “Lots of field labs, time in the field, practical instruction, and a ‘get-in-it’ attitude. I learned best myself with real world hands-on things so that’s how we teach it at ZSC. I think our education system should be more about getting hands and hearts involved rather than just dumping in and pouring out for tests.”
Allen “Al” Parker grew up in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. He went to high school in Indianapolis, then graduated from Purdue University with a degree in wildlife management.
“I ended up working as a wildlife technician with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for over 25 years,” he recalled. “I got to do a lot with endangered species reintroduction, bald eagle reintroduction and banding, tree climbing, barn owl nest box management. I also worked with otters, Indiana bats, peregrine falcons, timber rattlesnakes, etc. But I never dreamed I would be a college instructor. I thought I would forever be a field grunt.”
He even wrote a book about his experiences (available on Amazon) called “A Hope for Wings: Musings of a Raptor Hacker and Tales of Bird of Prey Recovery.”
“The field is not something that can be taken lightly,” he noted. “It takes commitment. That attitude is one of the things I attempt to instill in my students. Our relationship with the natural world is one that requires being relational — the meaning of ecology is the study of ‘home.’ That takes our kinship with the created order to a whole new level. How we deal with the earth, its ‘other nations’ of living things, and our home requires more than just lip service. Just as you treat those in your own family with respect, love, care and wisdom, the rest of the wild world needs the same.
“It’s hands, heart and head,” he emphasized.
“Al is a sincere, genuine man,” assessed Cole Geiger, a student in the ZSC wildlife program. “He’s a man of God and believes in the word. His conservation efforts speak for themselves. He strives to protect wildlife and the integrity of animal habitats.”
“I’m very thankful to God,” Parker responded, “for the fun and yet sometimes crazy directions life has led. I’m grateful for the many times we didn’t have quite what we would have liked to as I raised four kids. The jobs were sometimes part time, sometimes low pay, and sometimes uncertain. But without those low times I never would have known what it is to rely on the One who created this mind-blowing and wonderful world.”
Zane State College is located at 1555 Newark Road in Zanesville. For more information, call 740-588-5000 or log on www.zanestate.edu.
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Aces of Trades is a weekly series focusing on people and their jobs – whether they’re unusual jobs, fun jobs or people who take ordinary jobs and make them extraordinary. If you have a suggestion for a future profile, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.