Evan Hubbard is one of more than 100 rangers providing interpretation in Yellowstone each summer season. We recently sat down with Evan, now a year-round park ranger in the Division of Resource Education and Youth Programs, to hear his thoughts on interpretation and the rewards of sharing the park with visitors from all over the world.
What led you to the National Park Service and Yellowstone?
I’m originally from northern New Mexico, and got my start in the Park Service working seasonally in Yellowstone in 2016. In college, I studied Mandarin at the University of New Mexico. I first went to China in 2011 and learned very quickly how much I appreciate and admire the culture. When I got back to the U.S. in 2014, I knew I wanted to do something with Chinese-American relations. I found a job at Old Faithful working as an interpretive ranger for the first season of the Mandarin interpretive program in the Division of Resource Education and Youth Programs. The position combined my love of outdoor spaces with my passion for the Chinese language and culture. I knew when I left my seasonal job that I wanted to come back year-round, and I got lucky the opportunity came so quickly.
What is park interpretation, and what service does it provide?
Interpretation is finding a way to emotionally connect park visitors to some element of our park, whether it’s history, culture, or wildlife. It’s especially important to connect with them on their terms. I have my passions about the park, but if I can find out what visitors are interested in and infuse that with my own interests, I can create lasting memories. Helping people find an emotional connection to the park makes them care about parks, and when they care about parks they are more likely to stand up and say they want to continue preserving them.
What does a day in the life of an interpretive ranger look like in summer?
One of the fun things about being a ranger is that every day is different, especially in the summertime. One day I might be giving an evening talk by the fireside; the next day I’m out managing an animal jam. We have a varying mix of visitors too—from international visitors coming for their first time, to locals who are coming back for the 20th time. Every interaction is different, and the needs of the visitors are different. That makes every day new—I wake up each morning wondering what the day will bring.
What is the value of having park rangers who speak Mandarin?
We receive a huge number of Chinese visitors and that number has been growing each year. It’s an exciting experience for them to, all of a sudden, have someone speaking their language—it helps them feel welcomed. Their worldly experience is very different from ours. There is a need for interpreting the park’s resources to help them understand what they’re seeing, and the meaning of preservation. I think it’s one of our greatest opportunities, to share our mission with a country that is currently developing its own national park system.
Interpretive rangers play an important role in managing wildlife jams. How does this support keep visitors safe?
I’ve lost count of how many wildlife jams I managed in my last season—they’re a daily occurrence. What Yellowstone Forever does to support the funding of wildlife rangers is so important, both for the safety of the wildlife and the visitors. People are often so excited to finally be here and see the animals they’ve dreamt about seeing that it can be easy to forget about safety. Having a ranger on the scene significantly reduces the risk of a negative encounter. It also gives visitors a chance to talk to someone who can explain what they’re seeing and what the animal is doing—and how to view wildlife safely in the future. Yellowstone offers the rare opportunity to view wild animals and birds in their natural habitats, and helping visitors safely enjoy that amazing experience is important to ensuring that the same experience will be available to future generations.
This interview was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Yellowstone Quarterly.
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