If you’ve visited Gasparilla Island State Park recently, chances are you might have seen Park Ranger Skyler Seidenberg putting up beach flags or doing other various duties during his shift at the park.
Skyler was born in Detroit, MI. His mother moved to Jupiter, FL (near Palm Beach) when he was about 1 year old.
“My mom’s parents were snowbirds and they would come down every winter. I would consider Jupiter/Palm Beach as my home town because that’s where I went to school,” Skyler said.
His mother, Jayne, was a licensed clinical social worker and worked for several juvenile service non-profit organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters for most of her career. She currently lives in Sebastian, FL with Skyler’s step-dad, Jorge.
His father, George, lives in Jupiter.
Skyler has two brothers: Austen Fitzpatrick, 30, and Andrew Cortez, 21.
Skyler attended the University of South Florida and studied geography and history. He graduated in 2015.
He has been a Florida State Parks ranger for almost 8 months.
“I was very fortunate to find this position and when I heard about it I immediately applied,” Skyler said.
Skyler has been working in the forestry field since his junior year in college. He had an internship with Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves, a group in charge of protecting Terra Ceia Bay and the Cockroach Bay area.
“It was a great experience. I had the chance to work hands-on with the head biologist there, Dr. Andy Reynolds, and I did GIS (Geographic Information Systems) work, which is like mapping, using aggregative, qualitative and quantitative values. It’s very statistical and geographical,” Skyler said.
Some of his projects included going from island to island to study certain kinds of vegetation to determine the range of types of salt grasses that commonly attract gopher tortoises. He also did some surveying of the land at various parks using GPS units.
“Another thing we did was map locations of certain types of
hard bottom habitats in the preserve to determine the health of creatures that flourish in those kinds of surfaces. And invasive plant control is always a constant priority. I had the chance to learn a lot about ecosystems,” Skyler said.
He added the experience definitely helped him land his current position at Gasparilla Island State Park.
After graduating college, he found another internship posted on the Texas A&M job board for an invasive plant control technician in the greater Washington D.C. area and in New York City.
“It was a four-month position and I traveled between the two states for work. I lived in Maryland at the time. They provided the housing, so I didn’t have to completely relocate there,” he said. “It was nice because I have some brothers from my college fraternity who live up there now, so we had the opportunity to spend some time together.”
After that internship ended, Skyler came back to Florida and searched for jobs daily. He applied for a variety of federal forestry and ranger positions as well as geography and history related jobs around the state. A few months later, he his mom suggested that he should also be concentrating on applying for positions at the state level.
So using the People First state website, he applied for a job at Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Martin County, FL, which is close to where his dad lives.
After not hearing back about the status of his application, he took some time to refine his resume.
He applied for a position at Myakka River State Park and had an interview, but didn’t get the job because they preferred someone with more experience.
The he heard about the position in Boca Grande.
“I applied and the next day, the assistant park manager, Bill Nash, called and invited me for an interview and I was offered the job. I was very lucky. I was absolutely in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Skyler said he is usually stationed at Gasparilla State Park, but sometimes Park Manager Chad Lach will ask the rangers to assist in projects at some of the other barrier island parks.
“I’m sure at some point I’ll be asked to help out at either Don Pedro or Cayo Costa,” he said.
Some of his job duties as a ranger include opening the park gates in the morning, placing the beach safety flags out near the water, unlocking and checking the bathrooms for cleanliness or any hazards that may exist. Then he’ll do a beach run on a buggy and check for nesting turtle tracks and monitor nests and bird activity on the beach.
“If we see signs of a hatch, we will excavate the nest three days later. Any data we collect we forward to FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). That’s probably been one of my favorite parts of the job so far is the turtle hatchlings,” Skyler said.
The rangers also get together daily and discuss what kind of projects or improvements they feel should be done in the park.
“In season, we stay very busy with visitor services and making sure people have all the information they are looking for, as well as making sure that nothing in the park is in disrepair and that everything’s in good condition,” he said.
Skyler said during season, the rangers do interpretive programs like wading adventures, guided beach walks and shell talks. Everyone is invited to attend the programs.
When asked what he likes most about his job and working in Boca Grande, Skyler said he loves the culture of the island and how relaxed and peaceful the people are here.
“There is a small town America feeling where everybody seems to know everybody and I like the sleepy beach-town vibe. It’s very relaxing. And my co-workers area great – we have a wonderful park system and a great staff. Everyone seems to genuinely care about the island and Chad is a great boss,” he said.
Skyler presently lives in Venice.
His girlfriend, Kaitlin, is currently a senior at USF and is studying social work. They’ve been dating for about six months. The two were introduced through mutual friends.
He does not presently have any pets, but he considers himself a dog guy. He worked at a doggie day care for a while after college. He said Kaitlin is very adamant about eventually getting a mini pig as a pet.
“They’re pretty intelligent. I had a close family friend who had one. Kaitlin wants to name it Hamilton because she loves the play,” he said.
When he’s not working, Skyler enjoys free diving and spear fishing. His favorite catches are mangrove and yellow tail snapper and sheepshead. When he was free diving under a bridge in Jupiter, he saw a goliath grouper that he estimated weighed between 200-250 pounds.
He also likes to kayak, play basketball and play video games in his spare time.
Look for Skyler the next time you visit Gasparilla Island State Park and be sure to take a moment and say hello.