During the summer of 2017, R.D. Bailey Lake hosted its first ever Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern, Brady Shrader. He grew up thirty minutes from the project so right at home as he worked alongside park rangers. On a typical day, they conducted land and boat patrols, contacted visitors regarding safety concerns, assisted with water safety outreach programs, and created a live animal interpretive display for the visitor center.
Brady initially applied for the position due to a strong interest in wildlife biology and the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience working in the conservation field. He ended up discovering a whole new interest however. "My favorite part of working at RD Bailey Lake was helping with Energy Express at the different schools. I really enjoyed teaching the kids about water safety and hearing some of their questions and responses," said Brady.
With Brady's assistance, park rangers were able to increase their youth water safety summer season outreach from two programs to ten with a 300 percent increase in the number of individuals contacted.
Brady was the ideal candidate to create and maintain a live Eastern Milk Snake exhibit due to his background of working with reptiles. The snake Penelope, and later, her eggs, quickly became the most popular exhibit in the visitor center. Often visitors asked questions about her and shared their own experiences interacting with West Virginia's snakes.
Brady learned that being a park ranger with the Corps involves a lot more than just the occasional interaction with wildlife or educating the public though.
When asked about the least favorite aspect of the position this summer, he answered without hesitation: "cleaning the bathrooms."
As a previous visitor to the project before this summer, he didn't realize how much time and effort park rangers end up contributing to the overall upkeep of the project facilities. "Although I did like working at R.D. Bailey, if you are not interested in the maintenance side of things (painting, cleaning, etc.) … this job is not for you," he said. Overall, he felt this opportunity gave him a much greater perspective on what he wanted to do in the future in addition to having a great reference for his resume. He plans on finishing his degree in environmental sciences at Bluefield State College and hopes to continue on to graduate school with the goal of working with endangered species one day.
R.D. Bailey Lake looks forward to continuing our partnership with the SCA in future summers and hopes to use this season's experience to make the summer of 2018 even better.