A Little Mud Won't Stop Winny Tan

Oregon Ridge Nature Center

Winny Tan has been the director/senior naturalist at Oregon Ridge Nature Center for the past 4 years. She has worked as a naturalist for about 20 years at Marshy Point Nature Center, Irvine Nature Center, Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, and Cromwell Valley Park but started her career as a summer camp counselor at Oregon Ridge Nature Center. She graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and Policy.

What motivated you or inspired you to go into your field?
I love being inspired by my job day to day while be an inspiration to others. I did not think that I would be an educator but I trained to be a volunteer naturalist at a local nature center for fun while going to college. It has changed my career path because of this chance volunteer opportunity. It was really fun to learn more about biology and environmental science and apply it to the explorations of the day.

What were the first few steps you took to pursue your field in STEM?
I switched my major from Biology/Pre Med to Environmental Science and continued to gain more experience as a naturalist by working part-time at various nature centers while completing my Bachelor’s Degree.

What is the environment like in your workpla What are some of your responsibilities?
I am currently the Director/Senior Naturalist at Oregon Ridge Nature Center. We are on an 1,100 acre County Park with woods and meadows. There are over 6 miles of trails to maintain and 20 plus live animals to take care of. We see thousands of visitors each year and conduct nature programs, school field trips, and special events year round.

What has been the most rewarding about your career?
If I can teach someone how to love nature more and inspire them to teach other people, that is the most rewarding thing in my field.

What have been your biggest challenges so far? How do you maintain positivity and motivation despite obstacles or barriers?
Budget and fundraising is a constraint on how much we can accomplish each season or in a year. It affects how much staff and the quality of staff as we cannot pay a high rate. We do have great rapport and I make it fun and do staff outings or BBQs. The staff is just so supportive of another that we are a tight knit community with also the volunteers. We just come up with creative ways to get things done.

What motto or core values do you live by?
Work hard, share, love.

What kind of obstacles are in store for today’s young women? What are some words of advice you believe will help girls today overcome these obstacles?
Sometimes, women are not taken seriously or their opinions/advice are not heard. Stand by your choices and be a leader in your own way. There is no one right way. Make sure to make your voice heard and support other females.

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