Natural Resources Manager - Maria photoMaria, Natural Resources Manager
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Missouri State Parks
Onondaga Cave State Park

Working Title:    Park Superintendent

Maria has been a Natural Resources Manager for the past 12 years at Onondaga Cave State Park in central Missouri. Prior to her current appointment, she was the Park/Historic Site Specialist at Lake Wappapello State Park, a park naturalist at Edmund A Babler Memorial State Park, and a tourist assistant at Mastodon State Park. Maria has worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for a total of 18 years in both a full- and part-time capacity.

Maria’s primary job duties include:

  • Overseeing park operations
  • Preparing yearly budgets and ensuring money is spent appropriately throughout the year
  • Producing monthly and yearly reports
  • Developing and updating park management plans for hazardous response, public drinking water, cave management, natural and cultural resource management, spill management and interpretation
  • Hiring and supervising full time and seasonal staff
  • Managing the State Park Youth Corps program in the park
  • Directing interpretation (education) and stewardship (conservation) efforts
  • Directing general facility maintenance and capital improvement projects
  • Managing the park concession operation
  • Managing the campground and trail system
  • Working with internal and external stakeholders, such as local chambers of commerce, other government agencies, friends groups and constituency groups

Maria notes that she must be able to understand operational structure and protocol, the facility’s significance, the state park mission, the park’s resources and infrastructure and then apply all she has learned to make everyday management decisions. She must know and understand policy and procedure, provide training to other staff members and volunteers, and is encouraged to develop partnerships to provide proactive assistance to park guests.

Maria believes the most important aspect of her job is leadership. Good leadership and management skills are essential in order to stay productive, progressive and relevant. Delegating tasks, sharing ideas, listening to employees, providing appropriate training and implementing ideas on a group level creates active involvement and an environment that is respected and appreciated by all.

Maria graduated from St. Louis University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. When she began working full time for the department, she already had served 4 years as a seasonal employee, as well as a volunteer for the Missouri Department of Conservation. While working for the Department of Natural Resources, she took advantage of the tuition reimbursement program to obtain her Master’s in Environmental Biology, as well.

Maria believes that starting from the ground up assisted her greatly as she developed an understanding of the inner workings of the park system. Serving as an assistant to both a senior park interpreter and senior park superintendent provided invaluable insight and relevant experience for those specific job titles.

Maria has excellent people skills which have greatly aided her in her current position as manager of a large state park. She occasionally can be confronted by unhappy people, and having proper listening and communication skills makes that part of her job easier in the long run. Her knowledge of and genuine interest in biology and the other sciences also has made a positive impact on her ability to do her job effectively.

Maria considers herself to be well organized, and her work requires organizational skills. Applying those skills to her job on a daily basis has allowed her to excel. Her position also requires her to be a skilled problem solver, which keeps her on her toes. She enjoys all of these aspects of her position as a Natural Resources Manager. However, what Maria enjoys most is seeing employees she has supervised find rewarding careers as a result of the time they spent working under her.  

The work of a Natural Resources Manager isn’t always fun, however. Maria says she will never understand why people litter in a park, a concept that has always been frustrating for her. Being a park superintendent doesn’t mean you are exempt from picking up trash in your park. Everyone pitches in when the need arises. Maria also is not a big fan of collecting campground fees, but realizes it sometimes is a necessity, as is the need to complete paperwork and reports in a timely manner.

What advice does Maria have for an aspiring Natural Resources Manager?

Start out as a seasonal employee, even if it means taking the initiative to volunteer. This gives the employer an opportunity to get to know you. Not only is it a resume’ builder for you, but it also builds a reference pool. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The road to this position can be long, and it may take a few interviews before you land one. Don’t get discouraged; ask the lead panel member what you can do to better prepare for the next interview. They will be happy to assist you. If you are serious about a position such as this, then definitely take the time to understand the Missouri State Merit System and get on the appropriate register long before you apply for this or any full- time position.

Natural Resources manager - Maria photo

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The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is an equal opportunity employer.