Dispatches from the Field: Nathan Charlton

Nathan Charlton (M.S. 2016—expected)

Nathan Charlton accepted a phenomenal position in the National Park Service at the Lava Beds National Monument in California while still a student in the M.S. program in geosciences. As the GIS Specialist and National Resource Program Manager, Nathan’s job provides many unique opportunities to use the skills he learned while at WMU.

As the GIS Specialist and Natural Resource Program Manager, Nathan's responsibilities include:

  • GIS data collection, management and display.
  • Program manager for the Youth Conservation Corps program.
  • Program manager for the Vegetation Management program.
  • Coordinating integrated pest management.
  • Writing grants and funding requests.
  • Field supervisor over the YCC eight-week summer program, various natural resource projects and staff.

Of his current job, Nathan says the following:

"A typical day on the job varies greatly by season, as I am almost entirely in the field during the spring and fall and almost entirely in the office during the winter writing and managing data.  During the summer field season with the YCC, I meet first thing in the morning with my NPS staff and the YCC staff and discuss our day’s objectives and goals.  I then travel with them to different areas of the park (wilderness trails, caves, back-country locations) to perform conservation work (trail maintenance, invasive plant management, cave restoration, wildlife surveying, etc.) while supervising eight 15-to-18 year olds.  I am also responsible for providing environmental education and field trips for five hours a week.  I have coordinated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Crater Lake National Park to work with their teams and have organized camping trips to Crater Lake NP. During the shoulder seasons (fall and spring), I perform various GPS field work within the division of Natural Resource Management here at Lava Beds National Monument.  Projects include vegetation mapping (milkweed), hazard tree assessment, bat monitoring and wilderness planning.  When I am not in the field during these seasons, I am processing GPS data into GIS, making maps, geoprocessing data and keeping in good regular contact with other managers in our park and others in our network (Crater Lake NP, Redwoods NP, Lassen Volcanic NP, Oregon Caves NM and Whiskeytown NRA). During the winter, I am busy writing funding requests for future seasons and undertaking many training seminars, webinars and online tutorials.  I still supervise two interns who are currently involved in cave ice monitoring, wildlife monitoring and event planning.

The most unique aspect of this job is the fact that my workplace is a national park unit in a very remote and amazing location.  My drive to work is 19 miles through the park, and I very rarely see another vehicle.  Our home is two miles from the nearest neighbor and 30 miles from the nearest gas station.  Working as a National Park Ranger is a very proud job, and I am lucky to have such an opportunity.  So far, my biggest professional accomplishment has been the success of this year’s YCC program.  I have received two professional awards for my management of the YCC program and have curried favor with our division chiefs greatly. Secondly, I recently found out that my first grant has been approved for over $25,000, and I will be using that money to fund a Cyclic Weeds Crew for 2016 to map and treat our invasive plants in the park. My future plans include working in this park for a few more years (I am serving a four-year term). I hope to continue as a GIS Specialist/Program Manager at another park within the National Park Service and to one day become a Chief of Natural Resources."

Nathan continues to make progress in his degree program from California and expects to graduate in 2016.