Get to Know: Michelle Biodrowski, Naturalist
By Kate Simmons, Community Relations Coordinator
Pottawattamie County Conservation is excited to introduce you to the newest member of our Environmental Education Department, Michelle Biodrowski. Michelle is taking on the title of Naturalist for our county and will not only be assisting with all types of different programs she will also be designing & creating new adult education opportunities for area residents. Get to know the newest member of the team and make sure to say hello the next time you see her at one of your county parks.
I grew up as a city girl in Omaha, NE, and never really got exposed to “wilderness” until a family vacation to camp in Minnesota. Even though I was not visiting great wild places as a child, I still immersed myself in the nature present in my backyard. I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and a Master’s in Biology, both at University of Nebraska-Omaha. My time and field work in college is where I really started to spend time in the prairie landscape and fall in love with our Midwest ecosystems.
Where did you work prior to joining the staff at Pottawattamie County?
I held a partnership position between the Conservation Districts of Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. With them I was a Private Lands Wetland Easement Specialist working with landowners who had federal wetland easements.
What are you looking forward to most in your new position with Pottawattamie County?
I am excited to share my passion for wildlife with children and adults alike to help them create positive memories and a deeper connection with nature.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider significant in your career.
Finally learning enough, and working with enough people, to become a resource for their questions about plants and wildlife. I in no way claim to be any type of expert, but I have had the opportunities to work with and learn from some wonderful people, and I love to share what I have learned with others. When someone comes to me with a question, thinking “Michelle would probably know about…” it really makes me feel good and proud, regardless of whether or not I know the answer.
What or who inspired you to pursue this field as a career?
Many, many people have definitely inspired me to pursue this kind of career, too many to list. The one thing I think they all imparted on me in one way or the other is to do what you love. I really do love showing people how amazing our world is, sharing the importance of species diversity, and helping humans make personal connections with nature.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in pursing your career?
I am pretty lucky in that I have always had a passion for plants, wildlife, and nature as a whole, and knew that my life would be spent trying to protect what I love. So my biggest challenge would have been to keep pushing through all the extra schooling, part-time jobs, and patience it takes to get somewhere you are proud to be in a career. This type of career for me is a life-long effort so I am still working on growing and adding to my tool belt.
What is your favorite Iowa native species & why?
This is probably the most difficult question yet! I have native species I love, and species I respect, but I could never name one species as a favorite! As I learn about new plants, animals, insects, etc. I realize how amazing they all are in so many different ways. I keep learning of previously unseen connections between different species and their environment that make them even more interesting. If I have to name a species right now I would have to say the opossum. First of all, they are immune to rabies! Awesome! Secondly, they have 50 teeth and are omnivores. Super cool! Last but not least, one opossum will eat around 5,000 ticks per year and that snacking means less ticks for me to fight off. As a bonus point, I think they are really cute with their beady eyes and thumbs on their feet.
I’m a book lover, I think a person’s taste in books tells you a lot about their personality. What books would you recommend to our followers?
Books by Terry Pratchett. If you like fantasy, satire, comedy, and great character development, all mixed in with important lessons about life I suggest you dig into his novels.
What indoor and outdoor activities do you enjoy in your off time?
Birding, growing and sharing native plants with friends and neighbors, chasing my dogs, ferrets, and cats around, I dabble with artsy things like drawing and water colors, playing Dungeons & Dragons, hiking, seed collecting, and volunteering to remove invasive species from the remnant prairie in Vincent Bluff Prairie Preserve in Council Bluffs.
What is one thing that program attendees can look forward to in your programming?
Enthusiasm for nature and the surprises it holds and encouraging people to look a little closer at that weird thing in the grass or to touch that cool looking stick with all the lichens growing on it.
Thanks for talking with me Michelle & welcome to the Pottawattamie County Conservation team!