PERRYSBURG - Jim Witter's love of the natural world hatched through an elementary school class assignment on birds - and it took flight from there.
|Jim Witter, WC Park District Naturlist. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Witter is a program naturalist with the Wood County Park District.
Born and raised in Toledo, Witter is a 2003 graduate of St. John's Jesuit and a 2007 graduate of the College of Wooster, where he majored in biology.
His interest in nature began to grow as a youngster.
"When I was about in second grade, I did a report on the belted kingfisher, a kind of bird. I found it fascinating," he said. That started a lifelong interest in birds and bird watching.
"So I kind of went on a quest to find the belted kingfisher bird."
By fifth grade, Witter's career path was set: he wrote in his journal that he wanted to be a naturalist, knowing that people in the profession were frequently out in nature and educated people about it.
"From there I just kind of continued bird watching," he said, and went on to take science courses in high school and college. After graduation he undertook internships in outdoor education and seasonal jobs as a naturalist in the area.
The program naturalist position is multifaceted. Witter works to come up with programming ideas for school groups and the community - in the spring the parks see a lot of field trips, he said - and also helps to put together displays and maintain the nature center at the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve in Perrysburg, his home base. Witter also leads programs and writes articles for various publications.
"We also do some minor constructing," he said, a part of the job he didn't expect. "Constructing different displays, even maintaining a little greenhouse here at the nature center."
Witter also finds himself fielding calls from the public about animals people have sighted and want to have identified.
"I'm also in charge of taking care of our program animals. We have a couple snakes, a couple turtles, a toad, so I take care of them."
A new parent with his wife of nearly five years, Witter most enjoys "interacting with the public, doing our school programs."
Doing what he loves, Witter likes to be able to share his sense of excitement with those who attend his programs, "especially people that maybe have never been out to the nature center."
"A lot of times our programs are pretty planned out, (but) sometimes there are those things that catch you off guard, a bird or something unexpected happens that you can share with the group."
"One of the nice things is just having such a nice setting to be out there," Witter said of working at the Knight Preserve. "We have a nature center, it's nice to be able to take a break, take short walks and look for animals, enjoy the outdoors. It's great to also be able to help, especially in this time of the year, maintaining the grounds."
Birds continue to be an interest of Witter's - he enjoys bird watching when he gets the chance, but he also has something else in common with his fine-feathered friends: Witter enjoys singing.
"In my off-hours I do like to sing," he said. "I sing with the group called the Masterworks Chorale. It's kind of based in Toledo but we have members throughout Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan." The group, he said, usually performs classical and sacred music.
Witter also maintains an active interest in sports, keeping an especially close eye on Cleveland sports teams, and plays golf, baseball and tennis.