Name: Aaron Mrotek
Profession: Preserve Manager
What do you do for a living?
I manage the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. The preserve is known for its high diversity in bird and plant species. As part of my job, I help oversee environmental research, maintain access for visitors, and carry out restoration projects that protect and enhance the native ecosystem that makes this location so special.
What type of training do you need to do your job?
Most people in my position go to college and received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, botany, wildlife management, or some other natural science field of study. Some will even continue their education and receive a master’s degree. But most of all, you have a lot of experience carrying out environmental research, or have spent a lot of time working on environmental restoration projects. To be an effective environmental land manager, it is important to have a broad range of experience in many different aspects of environmentalism, because the things that you do can be very different from one day to the next.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
There are so many wonderful aspects to working as a preserve manager. I love working outside, and I’m almost always outside for some part of my day. It is a privilege to be able to work in such a beautiful place and see many types of animals, including deer, turkeys, bobcats, javelina, coatimundis, mountain lions, and more. In addition to my love of working outside, I work with a lot of amazing, interesting people. I get to meet researchers and conservation practitioners from all parts of the world, who want to help protect nature. We all have a common goal, and it is fun to work in a team of such dedicated and passionate people who want to help make the world a better place.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a firefighter, a doctor, the president of the United States, but most of all I wanted to be a pilot. When I was younger, I didn’t even realize that you could make a living protecting nature. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned about opportunities to pursue a life in the outdoors. Once I started down this path, I fell in love with it and never looked back.
What advice would you give to a kid who wants to have a similar career?
Get involved! Volunteer for an environmental project. Get out on the trails. Go camping. Learn the name of a cool bird. Go fishing. Climb to the top of the highest point in your area. Be curious and explore. See how many different types of flowers you can find. There’s a place in nature for everyone – go find what excites you.
One fun fact NOT about your job?
Humans are born with two fears: the fear of falling, and the fear of loud sounds. Every other fear is learned later after birth.