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Oh, how the waves of life will sway you…

       Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania I had dreams of becoming a Park Ranger so scholastically I achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Management from Frostburg State University (the OTHER FSU) in mountainous Maryland.  For five and a half years, I experienced the natural beauty of rural living and an incredible love of the avian world.  I would make numerous trips to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in central Pennsylvania to develop this love of birds, specifically birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls, etc.).  Once I graduated college, I looked to Hawk Mountain as a place for an internship.  In the Spring of 1995, I was hired as a field research intern.  In this position, there was also an opportunity to do sidewalk and trail interpretive programs with live birds of prey.  This is where my interest in animal care and husbandry was developed.  With this background, I was able to obtain a position at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida as an animal care specialist with a focus in birds and reptiles.  Over my 25-year career, I was also able to add kangaroos, wallabies, giant anteaters, and sloths to my repertoire.  Not too shabby huh?  However, this incredible and lucrative profession was about to come to a screeching halt as the prolific pandemic hit.  I was furloughed with the hopes of eventually being brought back to the park once business picked back up. That date never happened.  I was laid off April 1st of 2021 and thus began my search for a new position.  I stumbled upon a position at Hillsborough River State Park that looked very appealing-FTE Park Ranger.  How life comes full circle!  With this position came the opportunity to work at the Ybor City Museum State Park, Hillsborough’s sister park.  Oh, how my world was about to change for the better 😊

     Raised in the suburbs of industrial Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was introduced to a diverse cornucopia of cultures at a very early age.  These experiences, even though at the time I had no idea, would lay the foundation for allowing me to open my tightly closed eyes to the wonder and amazement that Ybor City held inside.  Although I would visit Ybor City regularly, usually for the nightlife (the parades and club atmospheres were intoxicating!) I didn’t realize its rich history until I started working at the Ybor City Museum State Park.  The melting pot of individuals coming from the four corners of the Earth has made Ybor City the gem that it is today.  This, and the chickens that they originally brought with them for sustenance but have managed to outlast them, makes every day that I am at Ybor City Museum State Park a glorious and fantastic day.  I look forward to every chance that I have to spend there; it is a wonderful and magical place!

Scott Merrill, Park Ranger

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