Supporting Professional Success for Park Staff

Liz TrabuccoNPF Blog
A person in a yellow jacket on horseback with another person holding the reins
— National Park Service

When calling to mind the image of a National Park Service employee, most people think of ranger-led tours they’ve joined, or rangers they met at visitor centers. The truth is: there’s wide range of positions that help the system run! Their specialties range from marine biologists, to museum curators, to road and trail maintenance, to law enforcement, and so much more.

As with any career track, professional development is crucial to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and practices in any given field. Providing National Park Service employees with the opportunity to develop career-enhancing skills benefits not only them as individuals, but also the park system at large.

Over the course of 2017, the National Park Foundation proudly supported dozens of NPS employees on their journey to personal and professional enrichment. Check out how a few of these scholarship recipients took advantage of the opportunity.

Rigging for Rescue

A man on a rope in a canyon with another person hanging in litter a to simulate a vertical rescue situation
Brian Hays

As the search-and-rescue coordinator for Canyonlands National Park, Brian Hays is responsible for making sure his team is thoroughly trained in technical rescue techniques. He received a scholarship to coordinate a three-day training consisting of classroom lessons and real-life scenarios using a new rescue technique called Dual Capability Two Tensioned Rope Systems.

Saddle Up

NPS employee riding Shade the horse
National Park Service

Mounted patrol are an integral part of the resource management and visitor protection at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Mark Howard, the park’s chief ranger, received a grant to fund horseback riding lessons to allow him to directly participate in horse operations.

In his own words: “This training has been the most enjoyable and rewarding of my career. After each mounted horse patrol, I cannot wait for the next one!"

Upgrade Available

Blue-lit people standing around a 3d map at Bannockburn Battlefield
Amy Bracewell

There is much learning to be shared and perspectives to be gained by interacting with our foreign national park counterparts. Amy Bracewell, superintendent of Saratoga National Historical Park, traveled to various sites in Scotland managed by the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to investigate digital preservation and interpretive media technology.

HES stands out as a forward-thinking organization that is experimenting with innovation and new technology to bring the past to life. Amy is excited to explore ways to bring these technological advancements to Saratoga and believes that they “can be equally inventive and dynamic in sharing our stories with the public.”

Flying High

Close-up of a man piloting an airplane
Andy Bidder

Andrew Mankus, a law enforcement ranger at Yosemite National Park, is working toward becoming a NPS pilot. This scholarship allowed him to participate in a 10-day, accelerated instrument flight training course which prepares pilots for flying in poor weather and visibility conditions, a critical step in the path to becoming a NPS pilot.

Andrew said: “After finishing the course, I quickly put what I leaned to use in my own flying and now fully understand the weather and visibility risk factors affecting our aviation operations within the park. This was truly ‘real world’ training.”

Breaking New Ground

A park service team training on the use of Ground Penetrating Radar
National Park Service

Lucas Hoedl, park archeologist at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument, attended a 3-day, hands-on workshop in the remote sensing technique of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). GPR allows practitioners to detect subsurface objects without damaging them by using electromagnetic energy.

“Understanding resources below the ground, as well as above, has provided me with a stronger means for making informed management decisions for the park’s cultural resources,” said Lucas. As if our national parks weren’t already magical enough, this brings us one step closer to discovering even more treasures buried deep within.

Supportive work cultures build dedicated and dynamic communities of employees. By giving these National Park Service employees the opportunity to invest in themselves, they become more committed and connected to our national parks.


I'm very interested to learn more about your professional development grants. I'm currently a participant in the GOAL Leadership Academy and it has sparked my desire to return to school for a Leadership and Organizational Management degree at Eastern Mennonite University. Does the NPS have any grants or scholarships for NPS employees who want to continue their education? Thank You, Shannon

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