Allow me to introduce to you this week my best friend since birth, my
sista from anotha mista, my go to concert and adventure buddy, Kristin!
This girl is literally one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, absolutely
beautiful inside and out, and if you are lucky enough to have her in
your life like me you know just how deeply she cares about you.
She’s constantly showing up and being there for you in any way she
can and making you feel extremely special and truly loved. Kristin
is also one of the funniest people I know. Her sense of humor is
absolutely top notch, no one can match her wittiness, and there
have been so many moments throughout my life where she has had
me laughing till I cry. I guarantee that any time you spend with her
is an absolute blast and I always look forward to any time we get to be
together. I seriously am so lucky to have this girl as one of my best friends
and I am so glad that we share so many common interests and are able
to go on so many everyday adventures together. 😉 I hope you enjoy reading
about this beautiful, brave, and smart sista of mine!
Q: Sooooo tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kristin Vinduska and I am from Pilsen, Kansas. I graduated
from Centre High School in 2016 and from Kansas State University
in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I majored in Park
Management and Conservation with a secondary major in Natural Resources
and Environment Sciences and a minor in Agronomy. I have had the opportunity
to work four seasons in the outdoors and have felt so fulfilled. I interned for one
summer as a Conservation Tech at the Marion Wildlife Area at the Kansas
Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. I then served as an Interpretive
Park Guide Intern for a summer season at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah
for the National Park Service. After I graduated, I worked for a season as an
Interpretive Park Ranger at Minute Man National Historical Park in
Concord, Massachusetts for the National Park Service. Currently, I am working
as an Interpretive Park Ranger at Arches National Park for the National Park Service.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a park ranger?
My favorite thing is the creative challenges I have in my work to build interpretive
programs and develop park content so that everyone has a chance to
experience the places I work at. When I see others able to make emotional
and intellectual connections to the place I am working because of a program
I developed, or a post I wrote, or even a conversation we had, it is the most
rewarding feeling. I also love getting to interact with Junior Rangers and swearing
them in. Now, I am getting the opportunity to work on media development for
the parks and it has been my dream to incorporate my love of photography and
videography into my work. I also love the culture and the tradition of being a ranger.
It is such an honor to wear the flat hat.
Q: What is your dream job position/place to work at?
That would be a hard choice! I think I would find something to love
about every place I would get the opportunity to work, as has been the
case so far. If I had to name a few, I would say Glacier National Park, Acadia
National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Cape Cod National
Seashore, Capitol Reef National Park, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Park
to keep it brief but there are so many places!
Q: What has been your favorite place to work at to date?
I have loved all the places that I have worked because they all
have unique things to appreciate. At the Wildlife Area, I loved
getting to work with the wildlife and the work I did to help
fight invasive species. It also had some of the best sunsets. Arches
is unlike any other place in the world with its awe-inspiring
spires, fins, and arches. The history of Arches like Indigenous
culture, African American ranchers and cowboys, men and women
who persevere in this harsh desert landscape while finding their
identity in the landscape. At Minute Man, I got to see the beautiful
colors fade in and out with the seasons and share stories of the
American Revolution. I found connection to the people who lived
off the land through their agricultural practices and their attachment
to this place. At all the places I have worked I have met the most
incredible and inspiring people. All these places will always
hold a special place in my heart.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments from working as a park ranger? (Good or bad.)
At the Wildlife Area, I love getting to band mourning doves and collect
data on them. It was always fun to release the dove from my hands
after banding the bird. They are such gentle and beautiful birds.
At Arches, I have too many to name. The top that come to mind are
watching the Perseid meteor showers while giving interpretive
programs, encounters with park wildlife like mule deer, hiking through
the Fiery Furnace, and discovering arches in the backcountry that
very few people know about. At Minute Man, I loved getting to shoot
the night sky for the first time at the park, helping to photograph
and get video of “Paul Revere” and other living history actors in the
park, and getting to write articles for the park. My favorite days were
days walking down the Battle Road with the tall trees blowing in the
breeze around me and saying hi to the farm animals like the sheep, pigs, and cows.
Q: What made you decide this was the career path you wanted to take? Are you happy with your decision?
I grew up on a farm in rural Kansas and that, combined with
trips to public lands when I was younger made me fall in love
with the outdoors. It inspired me to pursue a career in the
outdoors, helping others to find connections to these places
and protect them for future generations. I am very happy
with this decision even though this path comes with MANY
challenges. The rewards of helping people develop attachment
to these places is what makes all the struggles worth it
and the scenery is not half bad either.
Q: What is it like moving and living in new places every few months?
It can be hard because I am a person that gets very attached to
the places I go and the people I meet so leaving that behind every
few months and then starting all over can be hard. But in turn, I
do want to see and do as many things as I can while I am young. I
am so thankful for all the experiences I have had and the people
I have met. You get good at being your own company too and
traveling alone can be one of the most empowering experiences!
Q: Any insider scoops/tips for the places you have worked? Things you must see/do?
At the Wildlife Area, you have to check out all the views from the
different coves to see the best sunsets. At Arches, hit the two mile
loop around Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches or the two
mile out and back trail at Park Avenue to get a little more off the
beaten path. To see the icons, prioritize Delicate Arch, The Windows
Section, and hiking to Landscape Arch. At Minute Man try to see
all of Battle Road and check out the historic houses if they are open.
Check out the Vernal Pool trail to venture into the beautiful Massachusetts
woods and maybe even see some wildlife!
Q: You also are an amazing photographer….where would you say your passion for photography comes from? What motivates you to continue this passion?
Thank you so much!! I have run my own photography
business, O’Snap Photography, since 2013. I have loved photography
ever since I could hold a camera and I love how you can tell stories
through photos. I started by taking photos of the neighborhood
dogs and cat and backyard birds on a disposable camera. My love of
capturing the beauty in the everyday has only grown since then. I
love that my photography can inspire our park visitors or even virtual
visitors to care about these places. People who have never had the
opportunity to visit our parks can still connect through these important
forms of online media. The potential to impact is what motivates me the most!
Q: Do you have a favorite photo or photo session that you have done?
My favorite photos to take are landscapes and wildlife photos. My
favorites would either be the icons of Minute Man National Historical
Park silhouetted by the night sky or photos of wildlife like mule deer
under the arches at Arches National Park. I also love capturing
varying weather and seasons in the parks. I will never forget photographing
people dressed in kit in Minute Man, that opportunity to capture
people dressed in period clothing in these settings that have not changed
much since the day they are dressing for was like time traveling for me.
Q: Are there any photographers you look to for inspiration?
I would say Ansel Adams, the Kolob brothers, Gordon Parks, Rod
Trevino, Paul Nicklen, and Cristina Mittermeier are some of my
favorites but the list grows everyday!
Q: What gear do you use to take your photos? Do you have a favorite camera? Is there something you bought that you wish you hadn’t?
I mainly use a Canon 5D Mark III. I have a few different lenses
but I mostly use a 24-70 mm lens. It is good for all sorts of shoots
and has great quality. I don’t really have any regrets
but I do hope to get into film!
Okay now on to the real-thinkers:
Q: What have been some of the most challenging things you have
faced and overcome to get where you are
today? (experiences, fears, self-limiting beliefs, etc)
I have worked hard to get where I am at. It gets discouraging at times
when things do not work out the way you want them to or you
can’t get the chance you want because of how competitive this
field is. I am still working on overcoming comparison, imposter
syndrome, and insecurities but it is making me stronger. I never thought
I would be able to be this independent of a person but it helps
me to overcome the fear and have these empowering experiences. I am
an extremely introverted person so the big social aspect of the jobs I have
had and the offices I have held does not come naturally. But I find when
I am passionate about something, I want to share it with others so that is
why I love what I do so much. I can’t tell you the secret to self-doubt and
self-loathing but the answer is certainly not to give up. We keep pressing
on and do the best we can day by day.
Q: What is something that gets you truly excited about life?
The endless possibilities! I know I can do most anything I set my
mind to with a little hard work and time. I am excited to see
what adventures the future holds.
Q: What is the one thing you are most proud of?
I am most proud of my hard work in education. School does not
come natural to me so I had to work hard to get the grades and
the scholarships. I am also super proud of all I have accomplished
so far in my career at my age. I have seen and worked in so many
beautiful and inspiring places. I can’t wait to see what is next! Some
of the most special moments are probably when my photography or
projects get highlighted on park websites or social media platforms.
Q: Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
I wish I could tell my past and present self to not stress so much and
actually get myself to listen. Everything will work out how it is supposed
to in the timeline it is meant for. You can do more than you ever thought possible.
Q: Anything you wish to tell your future self?
Don’t stress! Haha. I would also tell her to do what makes her happy
because that is all I have ever tried to do career wise but I want to start
doing that in all aspects of my life. Stop caring about what other people
think and stop people-pleasing for people who would not do the same for you.
Q: Who are some of your female role models and why?
I would say all the women in my life are amazing role models. If I
had to be specific, I would say my mom, my grandmothers, and all
my best friends! I also have met many inspiring women through
my work. To mention some people I do not personally know, I am
very inspired by Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve
as the Secretary of the Interior, Claire Marie Hodges, the first female
national park ranger, and Rachel Caron, a very influential conservationist.
All of these women that I have had the amazing opportunity to get to
know and learn about have shown me how resilient and incredible
women are. All I have to say: WOMEN!!!
Q: What is your favorite quote and why?
Hmm can I do two?
Paraphrased: Humankind – despite their artistic pretensions, their
sophistication, and their many accomplishments – owes their
existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. – Paul Harvey
To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind
walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the
purpose of life. – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Q: I also know, like me, you LOVE to travel…What place is at the top of your travel bucket list?
Again with having me make only one choice?! Can I do a few
again? I would say Iceland, the Czech Republic and Ireland would
be at the top of the list. In the United States, the only places I have
not been to are Alaska, Hawaii, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina
so I would love to cross those off the list!
Q: What was your favorite place to visit?
It would be so hard to pick a favorite so I’ll name a top five! I
would say Glacier National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, New
England in autumn, Columbia River Gorge area, and
Olympic/ Mount Rainier National Parks.
Okay, last 3 questions:
Q: What is your favorite song of the moment?
That is another hard one! It changes so often. Could I pick a top
five? I would say my most listened to songs right now
Songs I have loved consistently for the past several
Maroney, and Pictures of Girls by Wallows.
Q: What is your number one goal for the next 6 months?
I want to have as many adventures as possible! Maybe taking a
trip with my favorite travel buddy… 😉 I also want to prioritize and
take time for my health and happiness. I will be spending time with
friends and loved ones. Lastly, I want to make some exciting advancement
s in my career. It is so exciting to see what it might bring!
Q: What is one thing you think everyone should do at least once?
Everyone needs to get away from where they are from, AT LEAST once.
I grew up in an area where many people never even leave the county
or state they are from. It is fine to want to stay there but if people can
swing it, they NEED to get out and get other experiences. That way you
can truly find places that you love and it helps you to figure out
where you want to be.