“I love the closeness of the county despite how fast it is growing.”
A Birmingham native, Emily Cook began her career as a naturalist at Oak Mountain State Park in 2007. Cook and her husband have been married for four years and have one son who is 2 years old.
Q: Why did you want to work for the park system?
A: To be honest, I didn’t set out to work for the park system. I graduated from college and put in applications at several different locations that had positions I thought were interesting and wouldn’t mind working for. I interviewed with the park and was offered the position and accepted. I wanted to work somewhere that involved my degree, and once I got a feel for the position, I was excited to be here and have been able to impact many people throughout the year.
Q: What exactly is a naturalist?
A: Essentially, I am an environmental educator. I teach local students and the general public about Oak Mountain State Park, the local area and the natural resources of Alabama and why and how we can protect them.
Q: What’s a normal workday like for you?
A: During the school year, I can spend the day leading a field trip in the park or visiting a school to teach about birds, geology, insects, mammals, pollution, trees or whatever a class is learning about at that time as part of their curriculum. Or, you could find me leading a hike on a Saturday morning to many of the amazing features that we have in the park. During the summer, I can be found surrounded by about 20 children ages 6 to 11 participating in a Nature Day Camp.
Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?
A: Being able to impact the children with something, no matter how big or small, is great. If they remember the best way to help a turtle cross the road, for example, because of something I said, it gives me a great feeling.
Q: What do you love about Shelby County?
A: I love the closeness of the county despite how fast it is growing. It offers a small-town feel with the amenities of big-city living. In working where I do, I love that we have great partnerships with both the county and city.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I love photography, both of nature and people. Being able to capture objects through the camera lens opens up a world of opportunities.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
A: It would have to be that I studied marine biology, and even though I am nowhere near the ocean, it is something that has always been a passion for me.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: My grandfather for taking me with him hunting, fishing, working in the garage and woodshop — not seeing me as a little girl, but as a person and allowing me to do everything he did. He inspired my love of the outdoors and taught me so many things.