To Protect and Share

A nature-lover is on a mission to teach others to love it, too

March 11, 2013

Tabby Fique pushed Howard County Conservancy to adopt Ranger, a barred owl.

Name: Tabby Fique, 31

Salary: $36,000

Position: Land manager and easement coordinator, of Maryland’s Howard County Conservancy (Hcconservancy.org)

What She Does: Despite her impressive title, “If I go into a school, I’m pretty much known as The Owl Lady,” Fique says.

In 2010, she spearheaded the Howard County Conservancy’s adoption of Ranger, a barred owl who had been injured in the wild. He joins Fique for outreach programs in local schools. “Our favorite part is when I get Ranger out of the cage, and the kids go ‘Ooh’ because they’re so excited to see him,” she says.

Fique also takes care of the other animals at the Conservancy, including four hens, two goats and Torope the diamondback terrapin.

As land manager Fique leads more than 200 volunteers as they clean up fallen trees, restore plantings and remove invasive plants on the Conservancy’s 232 acres.

She also helps locals preserve their property by creating easements. “If they don’t want their forest to be ripped down,” Fique says, “we will write a document that will protect their land in perpetuity.”

How She Got The Job: In 2005, Fique was the Conservancy’s first-ever summer camp counselor. A year later, she finished her environmental studies degree at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. “It was wonderful,” she says. “We had six to 10 kids every week. Now our summer camps do 40-plus kids a week.”

After graduation in 2006, she got a job testing soil on construction sites. “The first day that I saw the machine that, like, eats the trees, I cried,” she says. “So I came crawling back.”

Fique returned to the Conservancy part time. In 2007, she began working full time as education director. She shifted to the land manager position in 2010.

Who Would Want This Job: Fique says she has the most fun doing student-outreach programs, which includes bringing Ranger into schools and teaching students about butterflies (“Butterflies can taste with their feet!”). But “working on the land with people” gives her the most satisfaction.

“I gave a native plant talk to our volunteers last month, and it actually inspired so many of them to want to go out, find these native plants and plant them in their yards,” Fique says.

How You Can Get This Job: “You don’t have to have an environmental background,” Fique says, just “a passion for the environment.”

County and state extension offices, such as the University of Maryland Extension, offer programs to help you learn about the local ecosystems. Fique trained to became a Maryland Master Naturalist and a Howard County Master Gardener.

She also worked with the Irvine Nature Center to learn how to handle birds of prey.

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