Alumni at Work: Inspired by nature

CBS alum Savannah Maiers oversees animal care and helps visitors connect with wildlife at Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center.
July 20, 2022

Osprey Wilds is located just outside of Hinckley, MN, about halfway between Duluth and the Twin Cities. As the Wildlife Coordinator, Maiers plays a critical role in operations at the center. The 2015 CBS graduate majored in biology and minored in sustainability. She entered CBS as a third-year student, after completing her Associate’s Degree at Harper College in Illinois. We recently caught up with her at work to learn more about her journey and current work.

What do you do?

I make sure that all of our animals get the best quality of life and stay healthy. This includes overseeing daily care, managing a team, and staying up to date on best practices. I oversee enrichment activities, diet needs, and overall wellbeing. I also work to ensure that our education programs advocate for Minnesota wildlife. All of the animals at Osprey Wilds are native to Minnesota or closely related to a native Minnesota animal. We bring in a large number of school groups to connect with nature. Handling the animals and introducing them to kids takes preparation. 

How did you start working at Osprey Wilds?

I first learned about the organization while taking a mammalogy class during my last semester as an undergraduate student. At the time, it was called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. I applied for a fellowship and started as a fellow in August of 2016. I gained a lot of experience during that fellowship experience. After my fellowship concluded, I took another job as a zoo show naturalist at a different organization. Within a few months a former colleague at Osprey Wilds reached out to let me know that a position opened up. In September 2018 I started as the Wildlife Coordinator and have been in that role ever since.

Do you have a favorite animal to use in programming? 

Snakes are one of my favorites as they’re commonly misunderstood. Watching someone who’s really afraid calm down and even work up the courage to touch a snake is a very moving experience. All of our snakes have distinctive personalities and it is fun to watch others get to know them.

What’s a great day at work look like?

My absolute favorite thing to do is teach. Whether that’s work with our animal care fellows or kids, I love those days. I love the moment that they start asking questions. Sometimes you can literally see them have a light bulb moment and that’s always really exciting to witness. Allowing kids to have meaningful moments in nature is something I absolutely live for.

Are there skills you developed in CBS that you still leverage?

My work in Foundations I and II stick out to me. Developing interpersonal and organizational skills working in a team definitely stuck with me. Honing my communication skills and improving my teamwork skills is something that has helped me be successful in my current role managing a team. I think these skills are important in every job.

What’s your advice to current students?

If you are interested in environmental education, start exploring resources early. The Bell Museum and the Raptor Center are two great resources at the UMN that hire student workers. Also, if you ever visited an environmental learning center as an elementary school student, reach back out to that center. Ask to shadow staff and don’t be afraid to ask questions. People are usually willing to help, especially when it involves something they love. They often want to share that with others.