Interpretive Ranger Ann Wilson

Park Service Profiles

From Intern to Interpreter

Ann Malys Wilson didn’t visit many state parks growing up in Oil City, Pennsylvania. It was her choices along the way that lead her to be an Interpretive Ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park, the one and only full-time job she has ever had.

After her family moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Wilson went on to receive a Marine Biology degree from UNC Wilmington. She credits her experience during two environmental education internships (one in Yellow Springs, Ohio and another at Seabrook Island, SC) with giving her the realization that her passion would be teaching in a coastal environment.

“I think the best advice I can give a rising high school or college student is for them to get involved in internships,” Wilson said, “I never would have been ready for this job without the myriad of skills I learned as an intern.”

Myrtle Beach State Park sees more than 1 million visitors annually, and it is relatively small in size at an estimated 312 acres. Since beginning her position there in 1994, Ann develops, updates, schedules, promotes and teaches a diverse list of programs for the public and for school groups (grades 1, 2, 3 and 5). She also coordinates the sea turtle, trail and nature center volunteers, cleans and maintains two interpretive buildings, cares for nature center and injured animals, maintains the nature trails, and develops any passive educational signage in the park. And yes, she also cleans the interpretive facility bathrooms!

Before becoming an Interpretive Ranger, Ann didn’t realize the role that state parks play in people’s lives. Most of the time rangers don’t realize the impact they have, but Ann was fortunate. Throughout the years Ann saw a little boy named Austin at the park, and she always knew that he loved sea turtles. Recently Austin presented the Myrtle Beach State Park staff with a poem.

“It absolutely blew us away and he was only nine years old when he wrote it,” said Wilson, “It was packed full of information but woven in a creative and clever manner, and his love and fascination with turtles was clearly evident. It’s hard to put into words how much that moment meant to me.”

Ann has seen the highs and lows of the job. The hardest thing she deals with is trying to understand why people come to enjoy the beauty of a park and then leave trash behind. On the other hand, she gains great satisfaction when the park programs can instill better values. “I laugh when parents tell me their kids had just as much fun picking up more trash than shells from the beach…not about the trash part but that they are making a positive difference!”

Other memorable highlights for Ann include watching a green sea turtle on the beach with a family during a morning patrol, witnessing a humpback whale breach, watching playful harbor seals and dolphins, having a plankton program interrupted by a garter snake devouring a toad, and seeing a double rainbow over the ocean on Earth Day.

Ann Malys Wilson has seen a lot as an Interpretive Ranger, but never fails to be enthusiastic and meets every daily challenge head on. “You never know what the day will bring,” she said, “I think you both love and thrive or you don’t. I’m one of the lucky ones!”