Andrea Johnson spends her work day as a Park Naturalist at the Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe holding creatures like the rose hair tarantula.
She enjoys learning about nature and sharing that knowledge with those around her including the young children who visit the Johnson County Park.
“My passion is to teach people about science and biology and help them experience the world around them. My hope is once they learn more about nature, they will understand the need to preserve it. I have the opportunity to expose children to living creatures and organisms that are native to other countries and other parts of the world. I can help students realize that all creatures are an important part of our ecosystems. If we are cautious and knowledgeable, those creatures won’t hurt us,” said Andrea.
Andrea graduated from MCC-Longview where she took biology and botany. She credits one of her professors, Keet Kopecky, for doing a great job getting students outside to study science. “Being outside is where you are the closest to nature and that’s where science lives. Keet Kopecky did a wonderful job nurturing my interests as well as so many other students.” During her time at MCC- Longview she participated in the international field biology class and studied and traveled to Belize and Guatemala.
Andrea earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwest Missouri State University. While studying biology, she was selected by the United States Geologic Survey to conduct research on glaciers in Alaska.The program is called Research Experiences for Undergraduates. For six weeks, she camped in a tent and studied the plants and fungus that grew on the Alaskan glaciers.
Andrea said she had a great experience at MCC-Longview. She served as vice-president of the Student Government Association which helped hone her leadership skills and confirm her strong interest in science. Her MCC experience helped her win a full tuition transfer scholarship at Northwest Missouri State. “My experiences at MCC helped me achieve so much,” explained Andrea.
She has been with the Nature Center for the the past 11 years and has won the Rising Star Award from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education, Outstanding New Interpreter Award from the National Association of Interpretation Region 6 and Employee of the Year from Johnson County Park and Recreation District.
Andrea is currently working on a master’s in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
Johnson was featured in an article that appeared in the Kansas City Star’s 913 section. The article focused on the Ernie Miller Nature Center and how the park provides an opportunity for learning, understanding, and admiring nature.