When Ashley Hansen was an environmental conservation volunteer with the Peace Corps in Santo Domingo, Paraguay, she came across a little kitten with big ears.
She adopted the cat and named her Nambi, which in the local native language of Guaraní in her village in Paraguay means “ear.” Even utilizing that bit of the tribal tongue helped Hansen connect with locals as she taught educational programs to kindergarten through ninth-grade students.
Hansen, a Sedalia, CO, native, spent two years with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, teaching biodiversity, create a tree nursery, making a school garden, working on trash management projects and more.
Now she is on to her next adventure as the new naturalist for the Dickinson County Conservation Board, stationed at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji. In this position, she will work on environmental education programs for students in local schools as well as public programs for all ages at the nature center.
“I like the environmental education aspect of it. I like working with kids a lot, and I like nature and the environment, and this job combines the two of those things. I like getting kids outside and excited about nature,” Hansen said. “When they’re excited about the environment, then they care about it.”
Hansen graduated from Castle View High School in Castle Rock, CO, in 2010 and went on to graduate from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in fish, wildlife and conservation biology with a concentration in wildlife biology.
“I’ve always loved animals and the outdoors, and I thought that was a good way to combine the two,” Hansen said.
After returning from her two-year commitment to the Peace Corps, she decided to find a job stateside, and the position at the Dickinson County Conservation Board intrigued her. Plus, the Iowa Great Lakes offers plenty of beautiful areas for wildlife.
Hansen is excited to teach students of all ages about wildlife, especially birds, and how animals have adapted to their habitats.
When not at work, Hansen enjoys running, hiking, traveling, reading, crafting, and of course, spending time with Nambi.
“I’m excited to be here, and I look forward to meeting new people,” Hansen said.
To learn more about Dickinson County Conservation Board’s environmental education programming, click here or call 712-336-6352. You can also stop by the Dickinson County Nature Center at 2279 170th St., Okoboji, to meet Hansen. The nature center is open year-round, with off-season hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.