Wild Jobs: Naturalist Traná Madsen

By | June 1, 2013
From Xplor: June/July 2013

Naturalist Traná Madsen wrangles spiders, snakes, and salamanders to connect people with nature.

Q: Did you know there’s a large, hairy spider on your face?

A: Yes, actually. I use it to teach people about spiders and show them there’s nothing to fear. It normally doesn’t crawl on my face.

Q: Are all the nature center animals this well-behaved?

A: No. A bullsnake once slithered around my waist and into my belt loops. It didn’t want to come out. Someone had to help me pull the snake through — just like a belt!

Q: Have you ever been bitten by a snake?

A: When I worked at a preschool, parents never asked if I’d been bitten by their child, yet it happened often. I’ve been a naturalist eight years and give 150 programs each year. Never once has a snake bitten me, but people ask about it all the time.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: Helping people connect with nature. I once helped a teacher who was afraid of snakes find the courage to touch one. Her whole class cheered.

Q: What else do you do besides nature programs?

A: I play detective a lot. People come to me with questions, and I try to answer them. One gentleman brought in bones and wanted to know what they were. I finally figured out they were throat teeth from a fish called a carp.

Q: Why did you become a naturalist?

A: Taking care of nature runs in my family. My dad, a wildlife biologist, encouraged and inspired my love of the outdoors. He said, "You would be great as a naturalist."

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White