Explore environmental careers.
Park interpreters research, develop, and conduct education programs for visitors to national, provincial, and municipal parks and conservation areas. They use a variety of methods for educating visitors, for example nature walks, theatre presentations, or bulletins and pamphlets. Park interpreters are always studying different aspects of their environment and sharing what they learn.
At a glanceImagine the warm afternoon sun on your back and a dry prairie wind blowing across your face as you stand high atop a ledge overlooking a 30-metre drop off an historic buffalo jump. You are a park interpreter and this is your office: more than 1,000 acres of bald prairie where Aboriginal tribes used to hunt bison for their hide and meat. The bison herds are gone, but thousands of tourists return every summer to catch a glimpse of what the prairies used to look like before the Europeans came west. It is your job as park interpreter to help paint that picture and re-create some of the area's cultural and natural history. As a park interpreter, you interact with hundreds of people each day who have come to learn about the park's unique history. Right now, more than 40 visitors are listening intently as you explain some of the elaborate strategies Blackfoot tribes used to hunt bison. You creatively narrate the story of how tribe members would work together to herd dozens of animals at a time over the jump. The bison would fall to their death on the rocks below, and their carcasses would be harvested to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the tribes' families. You use the story of the bison jump to educate your audience about the Aboriginal tribes and how they learned to use natural features such as the buffalo jump for survival. You stress how economical tribes were when it came to harvesting resources from the environment, citing the fact that every part of the bison was used for some purpose nothing was wasted. At the end of your story, you invite these visitors to attend an engaging amphitheatre presentation where you and other park interpreters will bring native species to life using songs, characters, puppets, and more. You hope that through all the park activities you can impart to these visitors a greater understanding and respect for their environment.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a park interpreter:
- Design and conduct interpretive activities in national, provincial, and municipal parks, zoos, conservation areas, and historic sites.
- Research and create interpretive material such as signs, booklets, and videos.
- Participate in creative presentations for park visitors, including theatre productions, campfire programs, and singalongs.
- Prepare season-end reports and manage slide and costume collections.
- Coordinate with other staff, including seasonal workers and volunteers, and assist salespeople in gift shops.
- Create awareness of the need to protect and restore historic and natural sites.
- Liaise with technical experts.
- Assist with planning and coordinating special events and fundraising campaigns.
- Assist with developing proposals for additional interpretive programs, including audience, cost, equipment, material, staffing, and safety concerns.
- Conduct outreach presentations, for example in hospitals, libraries, seniors' centres, schools, and other community groups.
- Communicate park and site issues for long-term management planning in open houses and public consultations.
- Advise visitors of park rules and regulations and notify the necessary authorities when these rules are broken.
- Engage visitors in informal learning opportunities whenever they arise.
Work environmentPark interpreters work in a variety of locations, including: In the field:
- Leading nature walks and conducting demonstrations
- Speaking and participating in creative presentations for park visitors
- Visiting schools, senior citizens, and community groups to educate others
- Taking photographs and videos for displays or presentations
- Interpreting the natural constructed features of an area for visitors
- Maintaining a safe, clean, and litter-free environment
- Developing and constructing displays
- Researching and writing educational handouts and brochures and preparing presentations
- Organizing information and preparing reports and correspondence
- Delivering professional development workshops for peers and educators
Where to workThere are a number of places park interpreters can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal parks
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental environmental organizations
- Museums, nature centres, and cultural and heritage organizations
- Self-employed park interpreter and consultant
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a park interpreter, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Social Studies
- Physical Education/Outdoor Education
- Art and Drama
- Parks and Forest Recreation
- Communications and Marketing
- Outdoor Recreation
- Natural Science