Amy Andrews, the newly hired naturalist with the Poweshiek County Conservation Board, said she is looking forward to continuing some of the programs her predecessor, Emily Klein, was doing, such as kayaking, Trunk or Treat, and afterschool nature club in partnership with ISU extension. She also has some new ideas of her own to throw in the mix.
“I want to add some guided walks in our natural areas such as Fleming Woods to encourage folks to get out and explore some new ground,” she said. “I’m also hoping to develop a volunteer program. I learn best by gaining hands-on experience and I love to socialize, so I’m hoping people who want to get more connected to our natural areas will join me in spending some time in them!”
A native of rural Shellsburg, Andrews grew up on a small farm near the Cedar River in Benton County. She is a graduate of Vinton-Shellsburg Community Schools where she was active in FFA and 4-H.
“In addition to showing livestock, as a kid, I spent a lot of time reading (I especially loved books like Little House on the Prairie) and playing outside,” she said.
Her love for the outdoors led her to Central College in Pella, where she double-majored in Communication Studies and Environmental Science.
“I knew I wanted to work with people, but also loved learning about the natural world and how we interact with it,” Andrews said.
While in college, Andrews interned with the naturalist in Jasper County. While there, she realized the job was the perfect blend of her two areas of interests - doing education and community organizing while continuing to learn about the environment.
“After college, I gained job experience through a variety of seasonal jobs related to land stewardship, wildlife, childcare and environmental education,” she noted.
Her first job was in Poweshiek County working with farmers who were doing conservation on their land. Andrews said the job was a great fit, because she already had family and friends from college in the area.
She was offered a better position in northwest Iowa doing similar work, but after a few years of working in ag conservation, she realized that as much as she enjoyed the work she was doing, she missed working with a wider range of people.
“I especially wanted to get back into working with kids,” she said. “A friend who is a naturalist told me Poweshiek County was hiring, and I was so excited to apply since the job fit my interests so well and I already knew I loved the area!”
Although her work has been curtailed by Coronavirus, Andrews is looking forward to working with folks across the county.
“I’ll be putting on programs and field trips for students in schools, as well as general interest programs on outdoor topics such as birdwatching, kayaking and native plants,” Andrews aid. “I’m eager to hear what kind of programs people are interested in doing.”
Andrews is also available to give presentations on a wide range of topics, especially nature.
“My favorite subjects are natural history in general (things like why do we have forests in some places and prairies in others) and native plants – especially prairies,” she said. “I grew up appreciating flower gardens, but when I got to college and learned there are hundreds of flowering plants perfectly adapted to live in every soil type, light condition, and weather factor in Iowa, I felt like I’d been missing out my whole life. I love to share that with new people.”
Andrews said she loves letting people know what Iowa has to offer and that they don’t have to go to South Dakota or Colorado to enjoy nature.
“Once we love something, we look out for it,” she said of nature. “I love the idea of helping community members gain momentum on whatever topics they are interested in, because then caring for our planet becomes enjoyable rather than a chore.”
When not at work, Andrew naturally enjoys spending time outdoors. She also enjoys spending time on her family farm, traveling to parks and wildlife areas in other parts of the state and hiking.
“I’m also trying my first big garden on my own this summer,” she said. “I also enjoy reading and doing a variety of craft projects. I’m looking forward to connecting with old friends and meeting new people in the area as well.”