Women in Conservation, U.S. Park Ranger Rosi Ferioli
U.S. Park Rangers are in the business of preserving natural, historic and cultural resources within our National Parks. On this episode, producer Randall Maxwell introduces us to U.S. Parks Ranger Rosi Ferioli, whose beat is the Padre Island National Seashore.
UTTS: S2E14: Women in Conservation, U.S. Park Ranger Rosi Ferioli
[MUS—I AM ATOM]
Throughout the country, our state and national parklands represent some of the most scenic and diverse landscapes in the world.
[SFX—NATURAL SOUNDS MIX]
There are the dramatic waterfalls, deep blue rivers, magnificent rock formations, lush forests and mountain peaks high enough to see the curvature of the earth. From sea to shining sea, the beauty is endless.
And you might say…or sing…
[MUS—THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, WOODY GUTHRIE]
Woody Guthrie was right. This land is yours and mine, especially when it comes to federal public lands. While there are over 80 State Parks and State Natural Areas in Texas, there are 14 different units of federal public lands. Two are National Parks and the remaining lands consist of recreation areas, preserves, monuments, historic parks, trails and sites, memorials, a wild and scenic river, and…a seashore.
[ROSI] So it ends here, it's the last restroom and the dumpsters, and for the next 60 miles it's just the park. So, you see the beach on one side, and then the dunes on the other.
On the podcast, we learn how a college student majoring in political science found her way to a law enforcement career in the outdoors. We'll travel along as she patrols her beat: the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Stay with us.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
Protecting our natural resources and enforcing the conservation laws of Texas is a mission Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens take on daily. And like Game Wardens, U.S. Park Rangers are also in the business of protection, and their job is to preserve the natural, historic and cultural resources within our National Parks. Producer Randall Maxwell introduces us to one U.S. Park Ranger working along the Texas Gulf Coast at a location known as Padre Island National Seashore.
[RANDALL NARRATION BEGINS]
[RANDALL] Rosi Ferioli [Row-z Fair-e-o-lee] is a U.S. Park Ranger with the National Park Service.
[02—ROSI & BEACHCOMBER—8]
[ROSI] Hi guys. How are you?
[BEACHCOMBER] You releasing anything?
[ROSI] Oh not today, the turtle release season is actually over now.
[BEACHCOMBER] Oh okay. [fade out audio as conversation continues]
[ROSI] I like the Texas book.
[BEACHCOMBER] Yeah, yeah yeah, there you go. You can tell we're out of state, right? [laughs]
[RANDALL] With a friendly smile she is greeting visitors along her patrol route on the beach of Padre Island National Seashore. Rosi has only been here a few months, but in the last five years she’s already experienced National Parks and Historic Sites across the country, including a U.S. Territory. You might think that someone who chooses a career in conservation must have spent a lot of time outdoors in their youth. But that wasn’t the case with Rosi. She grew up as a city girl.
[ROSI] I grew up in Texas, in Houston. You know, I spent a lot of time with family, having get-togethers at the house, or going to theme parks, going to the movies, you know hanging out at home, so I didn’t really get to learn about being in the outdoors.
[RANDALL] In fact, it would not be until her sophomore year in college that Rosi was able to have a notable outdoor experience as an emergency hire by the National Park Service. Coincidentally, that experience was in the sand dunes at the National Park she now serves.
[ROSI] The dunes here on the beach, they provide a barrier for the rest of the island. During hurricanes sometimes they get washed out, and because Padre Island is a beach you can drive on, sometimes people see that as an opportunity to drive behind the dunes because the dune has been washed out. So, our job was pretty much to create a barrier to help the dunes restore on their own and people won't drive behind it anymore. So I'd spent, you know, four or five days down island, camping and working. Sand got everywhere. I learned that baby powder helps remove sand. So if you're camping out on the beach, baby powder is a good thing to have.
[RANDALL] Thanks Rosi. That's good to know.
So how did a college student studying political science and criminal justice get into sand dune restoration? Well it all started with a very influential professor.
[ROSI] In one of my criminal justice classes Dr. Lavell Merritt, who is in charge of the ProRanger program came to speak to my class about you know, what the program entailed, and it was a pretty new program I think. My sophomore year was probably the second year that they had it. That was the very first time I learned about the (National) Park Service.
[RANDALL] The ProRanger program is a partnership between the National Park Service, Temple University, and Texas A&M University. Its mission is focused on the recruitment and training of college students, usually juniors, to become law enforcement park rangers for the National Park Service. Rosi was still a sophomore but reached out to Dr. Merritt. Her interest and enthusiasm earned his recommendation to pursue dune restoration at Padre Island National Seashore that summer. Dr. Merritt's presentation had made an impact.
[ROSI] Because at that time I already had the idea that I wanted to be in law enforcement, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. Like did I want to go into the police force? Did I want to go federal? And so, when he's (Dr. Merritt) talking about the Park Sevice and that it's law enforcement, I was looking at, you know, these beautiful places he was showing us and the cool things you can do there, and it was law enforcement? I was like, I want to give it a try.
[RANDALL] That fall, her junior year, Rosi would officially enter the ProRanger program and became one of Dr. Merritt's superstar students. Rosi speaks fluent Spanish and being bilingual offered her additional opportunities for her first internship, which happened to be at San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico. And what was her experience like?
[ROSI] It was great. I mean, you're in Puerto Rico. And I learned a lot from the people that I got to work with there. There are people that I, to this day, still am close to them. People that I visit you know, going back on certain details whenever I go back there. Then I came back to do my senior year, continue with ProRanger classes and did my final internship at Yellowstone National Park that summer. I worked in the Old Faithful district.
[ROSI] That was really my first true national park experience, of what people think about national parks. I mean, yes, Padre Island is a national park and San Juan is a national park but when you think national park, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, some of those big parks, so hiking, seeing bison, bears.
[ROSI] I worked in the back-country office, so we'd go out and clear the trails, and so I had really great people that helped me. You know, what you needed to go hiking with, what to do if you're staying for a couple of days, or what to do in case you encounter a bear cause, (laughs) I didn't have to encounter bears before, so carrying bear spray. Sometimes we'd be out on the trail, we had a few carry-outs, uh, people who got injured and weren't able to walk back to their vehicle, so we had to carry them out.
[RANDALL] Once Rosi finished her internship at Yellowstone, she returned to Texas to finish her bachelor’s degree. Then she was off to the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy to complete her training in the ProRanger program.
[ROSI] My class was only 6 of us in the academy. I had a good experience; you know most of us had been in the ProRanger program together. Before I went to the academy I also didn’t, I mean I’m from Texas, but I didn’t spend too much time shooting guns. Also, I had only been driving for a short amount of time, so I wasn’t experienced with like, you know, emergency vehicle driving. So, it was a lot of new experiences for me. Sometimes people think, oh police academy, so intimidating. But I think it was really good that I got to experience it with people that I knew.
[RANDALL] With her certification from the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy, Rosi could now begin applying for full-time Ranger positions in the National Park Service. But where? There are 419 protected areas in the National Park System. Perhaps it was her newfound sense of duty that led her interest toward an international symbol of liberty.
[11—ROSI—29] There was a list of potential parks and one of them was Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. I said, you know, I’ve been in Texas my whole life, and Dr. Merritt actually said you probably won’t get it because Independence in Philadelphia there is already another ProRanger program, and they are probably, Independence is probably recruiting people from that program. I’m like, okay, you know (I’ll) put it out there just in case, and they were actually the first park that reached out to me.
[CECILIA NARRATION] From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
Rosi Ferioli is a U.S. Park Ranger at Padre Island National Seashore. Last fall, Producer Randall Maxwell spent an afternoon with Rosi to learn about her pathway to a career in conservation and law enforcement.
[RANDALL RESUMES NARRATION]
[RANDALL] Rosi Ferioli was only a sophomore at St. Mary's University in San Antonio when she first learned about the ProRanger program, an academic-intake program established to recruit and train law enforcement park rangers for the National Park Service. After being accepted into the program, she fulfilled internships at San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, and Yellowstone National Park.
Once she gained her certificate from the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy, Rosi graduated from the ProRanger program in 2014, and earned her first full-time Ranger position at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The park is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed.
[RANDALL] While serving at Independence National Historical Park, Rosi attended and graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Academy in Georgia. Now she was a fully commissioned U.S. Park Ranger, and after three years in Philadelphia, she would transfer to Everglades National Park in Florida. That’s when an unexpected event put Rosi’s training to a real-world test.
[ROSI] About a year and a half ago I became an EMT and a few months afterwards I got a call that a female had fallen off a bike, and this was in a location where it would take EMS about 45 minutes to get to her. It was on a trail so the ambulance couldn’t even get there. I was really nervous because before that I was just law enforcement and now, I was an EMT and this was my first call and I was by myself. So, I was the first responder on scene, there were a few people taking care of her and she was bleeding everywhere. She was on the ground and so I talked to her and tried to figure out what was going on, help her, try to comfort her. And afterwards I felt like did I, did I do everything correctly? Like was it enough? And she actually reached out to my supervisor afterwards saying, hey, you know that Ranger really comforted me whenever I needed help.
[RANDALL] Knowing she can help others was a validation of job success to Rosi. Caring for people while protecting the land, water and wildlife is a work ethic she continues to practice at Padre Island National Seashore. On this day, I'm walking with Rosi while she patrols the beach when a park visitor notifies her about a suspicious Pelican.
[13—ROSI & VISITOR & COLLEAGUE—75]
[VISITOR] How are you?
[ROSI] I’m good. How are you?
[VISITOR] Fine. I think there’s a stranded Pelican or whatever that bird, has been stranded over there for quite a while
[ROSI] Okay, um, I’ll go check on it to see, usually they like to hang out, but did you see it like injured or anything?
[VISITOR] No, I think it’s a baby bird. But I’m not sure. But I think four or five birds were flying over it and then one dropped down. This one has been trying to take off but then keeps coming back.
[ROSI] Okay, I’ll give a look and if it is, I’ll call the Park’s Resource Division and have them come out, okay. Thank you.
[VISITOR] Thank you so much.
[ROSI] I think it’s this one. Did you get called here for the bird too?
[COLLEAGUE] No, I just happened to be walking down here.
[ROSI] Yeah, they’re saying that it’s just been hanging out. People have been getting really close to it and it doesn’t seem to be bothered.
[COLLEAGUE] It’s favoring that one leg. Right leg, he’s got lifted up.
[ROSI] Yeah, I’m going to go see if maybe someone in Resources is in
[COLLEAGUE] For right now let’s tell everybody to keep their distance. But yeah Resource Management is probably your best bet.
[ROSI] Yeah, I’ll give ‘em a call.
[RANDALL] Turns out the Pelican was okay after all and just taking an extended nap. But one hazard to birds at the beach has been misinterpreted by children as kindness, and Rosi will always take the time to educate young visitors.
[ROSI] One of the things we tell kids out at the beach is don't feed the birds. I do like to educate them, like, hey you know, I know you're just trying to be nice in feeding the birds, but that's actually really bad for them. They can't really digest the food we give them and it kind of teaches them that when someone's going to give me food that means I don't have to hunt for it. Because they don't know. They just see it as something fun to do. So getting to teach them, it makes me feel good when I talk to kids.
[RANDALL] Yet Rosi says the biggest threat to wildlife in the Park is speeding vehicles.
[ROSI] Most of our job is honestly on the road like doing traffic stops. Which I think is, you know doing traffic stops is still really important to the conservation of our park because I don't know if you saw there was like a raccoon before you even enter the park dead on the road. People that are speeding, we have deer here that could potentially be hit by vehicles, so.
[RANDALL] Speeding vehicles are definitely a threat to wildlife, and believe it or not, so are abandoned tents.
[16—ROSI] So one of the things I did actually see was a tent that was kind of messed up. And I saw the driver next to it, they were starting to load up, but I noticed that the tent was messed up, and before there have always been people who leave their tents behind on the beach. And I had this feeling like, he's gonna leave it. But I don't want to call him out on it. So, I wrote down the plate. Came back. The driver was gone, the tent was still there. So, I ran the vehicle information, got his address. Sent him the citation in the mail. It was a messed up tent. We have trash bins you know, at the entrance to the beach. We have trash bins here, so there was a place for him to throw it out. Just didn't want to. So, if we hadn't picked it up it could end up in the water and become a hazard to someone that's swimming or it could be a hazard to some wildlife as well.
[RANDALL] Rosi said the offender paid the fine and perhaps next time may think twice about leaving a tent behind. As we continue down the beach Rosi checks in on a couple fishing near the surf.
[ROSI & ANGLERS]
[RANDALL] While Texas Parks and Wildlife no longer requires a fishing license inside State Parks, all state fishing laws apply at the National Seashore.
[ROSI] Hello. How's it goin'?
[ANGLER 1] Hi. Good.
[ROSI] You guys catch anything today?
[ANGLER 1] Just got here.
[ROSI] Well I'm just doing a fishing license check today. Only he's fishing? Sir do you have yours?
[ANGLER 2] Right here.
[ROSI] Ok cool. Well I appreciate that.
[ANGLER 2] I just heard about this place last week.
[ROSI] Your first time out here?
[ANGLER 1] Yeah.
[ANGLER 2] We live in Rockport.
[ROSI] Oh yeah?
[ANGLER 2] All my life. (laughs)
[ROSI] Yeah. Well I'm glad you guys found it. Hopefully you enjoy it and come back again. Just staying for today?
[ANGLER 2] Yeah just that day pass.
[ROSI] Alright cool. Well, enjoy it and good luck out there.
[ANGLER 2] Okay, thank you.
[RANDALL] That summer of dune restoration back in college was a worthy experience for Rosi. She loves and cares for the outdoors. Ask her what she thinks about her role now as a U.S. Park Ranger, and she'll tell you.
[ROSI] I'm very happy about my role. I feel like it's a very important role. My job isn't just law enforcement. You know? It's important to enforce the law, yes, but the reason why we're enforcing the law, to protect people but also to protect the park so future generations can enjoy it. You know, this place is not going to be here for many years if we don't take care of it.
[RANDALL] Well said Rosi.
From Padre Island National Seashore, I'm Randall Maxwell.
What do you love about the Texas outdoors; what have you experienced that you’d like to share with the world? Tell us with your own Shout Out to the Wild. Just go to underthetexassky.org and click on the Get Involved link. We’ll be in touch.
[MUS—TO ORBIT YOUR SOUL]
And so, we come to the end of another podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife and is available at UndertheTexasSky.org or wherever you get your podcasts.
We record the podcast at The Block House in Austin, Texas. Joel Block does our sound design.
We get distribution and web help from Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing.
I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti, reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.
Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.