Expanding her personal and professional skills plus having a whole lot of fun, Abby Cates’ serves with North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC through Resilience Corps NC.
Abby is one of 15 members of the 2022 Resilience Corps NC cohort. Learn more about the impact these members make while serving with community partners across our state.
Abby completed her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences at Elon University before joining AmeriCorps. Now she’s serving as a Natural Areas Conservation and Education Coordinator for the largest natural habitat zoo in the world.
“I joined AmeriCorps to gain knowledge and skills within my field that would propel me into my future career goals,” said Abby.
Learn more about Abby’s job and advice about AmeriCorps service.
What does your current service position entail?
In my role, I conduct wildlife research on a variety of different species across 2,000 natural acres owned by the NC Zoo. I am also responsible for planning and leading environmental education programming for both children and adults. Lastly, I have become knowledgeable in the construction and maintenance of hiking trails, and I am in the process of building ~2 miles of trails on zoo property.
What do you love about your current role?
I love that I can be outside in nature most days and feel that I am making a difference with my various research and conservation work. I have always felt a strong connection to nature and this role allows me to both appreciate and protect what I cherish most.
What lesson have you learned since joining the program?
There is no direct route to any situation. This has forced me to think deeper and more creatively to solve more complex problems in the community. Also, not everyone will understand or support your work. I have learned to have patience and adapt to unfamiliar situations.
What do you wish people knew about working in conservation?
I wish people knew that there are people doing this kind of work! I have been confronted by many people who do not realize that my type of service is a career option. There is a demand for work in conservation as the importance of preserving natural land and wildlife is coming into the forefront of people’s minds. Conservation Trust for NC and the NC Zoo granted me an opportunity to start my career goals in a time when I didn’t know where to start.
What is something you wish people understood about working with communities in conservation?
I’ve learned that not all audiences will connect with you but that can’t let you feel defeated or stop you from trying. This role has allowed me to reframe my thinking around the best ways to spread information and inspire a community about local conservation. While this can be challenging at times, it is important to know how to best connect and inspire action in your audience.
What advice do you have for people thinking about AmeriCorps?
Do it! AmeriCorps is a perfect opportunity for people trying to figure out their personal and professional goals. They make it easy to find a host site and service opportunities that pertain to your specific interests.
What are your plans for the future?
I do not have any set-in-stone plans after my AmeriCorps year. However, I have always known that I wanted to be a steward of the Earth, whether that is through research, conservation, or education. I hope to share my skill set with others and create a meaningful impact on the places I travel and the people I meet. I hope to one day have my own land and develop a permaculture farm to create a standardized system that allows humans to work with nature rather than against it.