Name: Ken Gioeli
Position: Extension Agent IV/Natural Resources & Environment; Lead Florida Master Naturalist Instructor
Hometown: Vero Beach, FL
Years with UF/IFAS: 28.5 years
Describe your role at UF/IFAS. I began work with UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in August 1993 as the Natural Resources Extension Agent. I plan, deliver, and evaluate Extension programs designed to improve natural resources in St. Lucie County through UF/IFAS research-based innovations. Water quality protection, management of native and nonnative wildlife (including sea turtle protection) and invasive plant management are my specialties. I have a passion for bats and atala butterflies.
Tell us about your work with the Florida Master Naturalist Program. I became a lead instructor way back in 2001 when Marty Main taught the first batch of instructors at Silver Springs State Park. Since then, I taught all the courses except the Marine Restoration and Invasive Plant courses – and that’s only because I have not had the time to get to them yet.
Why are programs like FMNP important to Florida? It’s an amazing opportunity for Floridians to learn UF/IFAS research-based information about the plants, animals, and human dynamics in freshwater, upland and coastal systems. I especially enjoy teaching advanced and restoration courses.
Tell us a neat fact you learned through FMNP? This is an easy one. I quickly learned that our greatest FMN assets are our program graduates. Each person comes to the course with their own skillset and interests. I am a better person and teacher for having learned from approximately 400 graduates over the years. It’s probably way more than 400 graduates if you count all the courses I helped as co-instructor.
What would you tell a member of the public thinking about becoming a Master Naturalist? Take the plunge. Just do it. You have options now including in-person, virtual and hybrid. After taking your first one, try taking courses from a variety of different instructors to help broaden your horizon. Each instructor teaches the same content; however, we each have our own style and interests.
Here in St. Lucie County, we have several lead instructors including Amanda Thompson, Wren Underwood and Dr. Lisa Krimsky. I have encouraged many students over the years to get to know them and the other instructors in the surrounding area. Now that we have virtual courses, you literally have instructors that could be teaching these courses from any place on Earth with internet access. I’ve had seasonal residents take my coursework from New York and Minnesota.