Monthly Archives: February 2018

Recharge Your Battery

Many of us are approaching our busiest time of year. For me, spring brings non-stop field trips, several large events, more visitors and battling weeds and invasive species that need to be controlled as they spring back to life. Usually winter is a time I can recharge my battery to get ready for this busy time but things have been busy and I feel my battery is already draining. I hear more and more that we need to take care of ourselves before we can care for others. As interpreters, our jobs require us to be able to take care of other’s needs for them to have an enjoyable experience (remember Maslow.) How can we recharge our batteries so we can survive these busier times?
1) Do something you enjoy. Maybe it’s a hobby that would normally get pushed to a backburner. I don’t know how many sewing projects I have waiting to be completed. Get outdoors and take a hike, bike ride or a paddle. Sit in a hammock with a good book (Talk to Pepe Chavez because he can give you the hook up and help NAI at the same time!) A rainy day is a great excuse to sit on the couch and binge watch an entire season of a show. It rained this past week so I am now caught up with Stranger Things season 2.
2) Take a day off. This can be difficult and may feel nearly impossible. If you can plan ahead and can afford to, mark off one day a month so you don’t schedule any programs. You can take the day off or a day without a scheduled program can feel like a day off and allow you to catch up on other work projects like cleaning your desk!

nai feb 2018 article pic

I think I am in need of a day off. What do you think? 

3) Meet with other interpreters. This week is our NAI regional workshop and I am looking forward to seeing people that I only see once a year and meeting new faces in the field. There is something to be said about hanging with your interpreter peeps. You inspire my creative side and can spark my battery back to life. If you can’t make it to a regional workshop, try to make it to a state gathering or join online conversations through Facebook or other social media.

As the busy season consumes you, remember to take time to recharge. What will you do to keep your battery on full power?


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Could you interpret yourself?


This is how you “wow”

During my career as interpreter I interviewed for a few jobs here and there, not always with the expected outcome, I would say for the best at this point in my career. As a Nature Center Manager, I am on the other side of the table interviewing candidates for full time and seasonal positions.

It is easy to spot when candidates are nervous, after all this moment is when you may start your career. Sweaty hands, white knuckles, either a pale face or a bright red face. I can see past that because I have been there before.

A key ingredient is preparation, how would you interpret yourself?

I already know that you have a college degree, where you worked, what position and responsibility you had so what I want to see and hear is what makes you a unique interpreter. How are you going to engage your audience?

Go to an interview thinking that you are going to share with a friend your favorite book, how much you loved reading it and you were almost sad when it was over. You share that passion and love and it is so vivid that your friend wants to borrow the book.

Show me how you would interpret our natural and cultural resources, show me that you love and care about them so much that I feel compelled to care about them too. I have heard from almost every single candidate on a monotone answer “I love nature” or “I feel very passionate about the outdoors” that is a good start but show me what you have done as a result of your love and passion.

If you can do that during and interview I can guarantee you that you will make a memorable impression and are more likely to get the job.

Next week I will be presenting and the Regional Conference and sharing fellow interpreters some of my experiences as a manager I am looking forward to catching up with you and hopefully sharing those stories about your career path as interpreter.

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Well-Hung Catkins And Sticky Stigmas: The Promise of Spring

by Doug Elliott
Catkins 1
If you’re looking for the earliest flowers of spring it’s time to look up at the trees and shrubs. This is the time year when the dangling male catkins swell and the tiny, female flowers expose their sticky stigmas hoping to catch a few grains of windblown pollen.

Alder catkins and pistillate flowers

Alder catkins and pistillate flowers

Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower

Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower

Many plants, like apple trees, daisies, and roses, have what are called perfect flowers, meaning that they have male and female parts in the same flower. (The male parts are stamens, each made up of the filament or stalk topped by the anther which contains the pollen. The female part is the pistil, composed of the ovary at the base, and the stalk-like style, topped by the stigma, which is the part that receives the pollen.) Other plants like persimmons and holly trees have male and female flowers on separate trees, and some plants like the birches, alders, hazelnuts, and ironwoods have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Late winter and early spring is the time to look for the swelling catkins and then challenge yourself to find those diminutive, delicate, pistillate flowers flaunting their finery.

The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

The pollen-bearing catkins can be an important source of protein for the growing honeybee larvae as colonies expand in Spring.

The pollen-bearing catkins can be an important source of protein for the growing honeybee larvae as colonies expand in Spring.

The pollen-bearing catkins can be an important source of protein for the growing honeybee larvae as colonies expand in Spring.

Here you can see a video of an ironwood tree in full flower. When it was abruptly shaken, you can see the huge cloud of pollen coming off the tree, (complete with human and avian exclamations!) I bet there were some satisfied stigmas that day!

Thanks to Todd Elliott for the photos. You can keep up with Todd’s photo work by following him on Twitter or Instagram, or on his website at

For my appearances around the country, check out my calendar.

This post was originally on

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Anxieties of being an Interpreter

I fell into the interpretative world by accident. As an introvert who hated presentations throughout my academic career, standing in front of 100+ people leading programs seemed like the last job I would ever end up in. But thanks to some amazing mentors in my life, I ended up falling in love with interpretation.

However, even a lot of love can’t counteract some of the anxieties that still pop up on a daily basis. And apparently, those anxieties aren’t limited to interacting with people face to face – those ugly insecurities started to appear again when I was trying to think of a topic for this blog. So naturally, I decided the best course of action was to share some of those fears with you and a few ways I’m learning to adapt.

Anxiety #1: Not being the expert

Even though I work at an aquarium, my knowledge of fish is occasionally… well fishy. If people want to talk about marine mammals or shorebirds – Great! If guests want me to ID this random fish that they caught six months ago from a blurry picture – That’s not going to go as well.

Jack Crevalle

I don’t know Jack

Luckily, I’m surrounded by a dynamic group of interpreters, each with our own specialties and interests to lean on. And, even though the Type A person in me is crying, I need to remember that it’s ok to admit I don’t know everything. Instead, I can reframe those moments into teachable opportunities for myself and the guests.

Anxiety #2: “Interpreter Blackout”

Ever spoken with someone and they ask a basic question – and you freeze? Or you’re doing a program you’ve done dozens of times and then can’t remember what on earth you said RIGHT AFTER it’s over? I’ve dubbed these instances “Interpreter blackouts” or “I promise I’m smart, just not right now” moments.

Missing Brain

One of the ways I’ve found to help counteract these blackouts, is to try to remember to slow down and breathe during the day. As interpreters, we carry so much knowledge around in our heads, I think sometimes our brain revolts and we end up going through our day on autopilot – which is often what we’re out there telling people to not do! We need to remember to take a bit of our own advice, slow down, be in the moment, and appreciate what’s happening around us.

Anxiety #3: Animals Gone Wild

Nature is infinitely more awesome than I will ever be. But (you knew it was coming) sometimes combining guests and nature can create some tricky, impromptu interpretive conversations… like the one time a shark snapped at a fish during one of my dive programs. Nature does what it wants. Stingrays get frisky, birds don’t have the best table manners, and occasionally an animal just wants a little me time.


 FYI: Breaking out into “The Circle of Life” is NOT an appropriate response

Interpreting the awkward moments forces me to rely on all my background knowledge and steer the narrative to the positive place. Does this always happen? Nope. But keeping a few puns in the back of my pocket and being open to interpret even when I’m uncomfortable usually ends up being some of the best interactions I have with people. Though sometimes it also brings me straight into the last anxiety…


Anxiety #4: Interesting Comments/Actions from Guests

Oh goodness. Which example to choose?

I could write about all the negative comments about snakes I hear. Or the number of people who jokingly ask me what something tastes like.

Turtley awesome

Not a turtley awesome moment for me

I could even mention the time I had a ten-minute conversation with a person who was VERY interested in barnacle reproduction, which, while fascinating, isn’t something you want to go into a ton of detail with fifteen young children around. (Sorry parents, all your kids just learned that barnacles have the largest penis in the animal kingdom relative to size. Whoops.)

Navigating conversations with people isn’t always going to go as planned. And quite frankly, this is something that I’ve only gotten better at with time and practice. Rocky situations are going to come up and sometimes all you can do is nod and roll with it to the best of your abilities. When I started in the field, I would go home and overanalyze my responses. Now, I still overanalyze, but I do it with chocolate, humor, and a better understanding of how the unexpected can be an opportunity for growth.

Any of these anxieties hit home for you? It’s so easy for us to feel like we’re the only ones who get nervous when we see how confident other interpreters appear. But you’re not alone. Falling on your face occasionally doesn’t make you a bad interpreter! I think many of us would argue that working through insecurities and messing up is a vital part of learning to interpret. Like Tilden says: “Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural. Any art is in some degree teachable.” Let’s turn anxieties into teachers.


Photo credit: 1:   2:  3:   4: “Getting out of my shell”, taken by one of my coworkers

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