We are very fortunate to have the inimitable Mike Walker, Interpretive Ranger, Huntington Beach State Park, as a speaker on Wednesday, October 16th, at 6:30 pm, at Kimbel Lodge.
His talk will be on “The Secret Lives of Shellfish.”
Mike grew up in Beaufort and St. Helena Island, and spent countless summers with his father traveling through state and national parks across the country in a makeshift camper, a school bus they bought at an auction. It was those road trips that would later inspire the direction of his career.
He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science, and went on to work a number of interesting jobs. From sea turtle nest protection on Pritchard’s Island and a year at the Aquarium Reptile Complex at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia to jobs at both Myrtle Beach and Hunting Island State Parks, Mike gathered a wealth of experience working with animals and natural environments. While at Hunting Island, he even got a little acting experience playing the role of Ranger Mike on the Nickelodeon TV series called “Gullah Gullah Island.”
Now at Huntington Beach, Mike manages the Education Center staff and a number of volunteers from the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park. He and his group conduct a variety of Coastal Exploration and standards-based Discovery Carolina programs on topics like birding, crabbing, kayaking, snakes, seashells, marine invertebrates, sea turtles, and salt marsh ecosystems. In addition, Mike is also responsible for resource management projects such as monitoring the park for invasive species, assisting with oyster and wetland restoration, protecting loggerhead sea turtles, and shielding shorebird nests with a solar powered electric fence.
While working with people and animals in an outdoor setting, Mike occasionally runs into some pretty unusual situations. Once he rushed to help a woman who thought she was trying to help an injured dolphin, only to discover her wading through the water with both arms around a very ill shark that was as big as she was.
“The diversity of habitats and wildlife in a fairly compact area make Huntington Beach State Park something truly extraordinary,” says Mike. “As I have heard some of our visitors say, you expect the unexpected here!”
Mike sees his job as a way to help people forge connections with natural resources. Mike’s continuous pursuit of preserving and promoting South Carolina’s natural resources has led to the most satisfying career he could ask for. Would he recommend his path to someone else? “Absolutely,” he said, “It’s the best job in the world.”