Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
GUIDING IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
QUALIFICATIONS OF A NATURE GUIDE
By Geo. C. Ruhle
A brilliant array and rare combination of qualities are those of the guide who successfully leads forth his group into the fields to inspire them with the beauty and harmony of Nature, who leaves with them a burning desire to learn more of her secrets, who awakens a love for the living world that makes life and the whole universe friendlier.
The good guide must first of all be a true scientist, personifying the virtues of his class; a love of truth for its own worth, a tolerance for the sincere beliefs of others, a natural and decorous humility. Without the slightest attempt at equivocation, he must be able to utter a straight forward “I don’t know” when confronted by unanswerable questions, but at the same time show a willingness to help find the correct answer. He must net only be a good observer and correlator of facts, he must show proper ability to learn in fields of natural science with which he is unacquainted, and must possess industry which will aid him in obtaining mastery of those fields.
He must be thoroughly reliable in all of his exposition, and must under no circumstances whatsoever sacrifice truth for the dramatic or the sensational. No guide can hope to rise to heights unless he possess a magnetic personality and contagious enthusiasm. It is necessary that he be an ardent devotee at Nature’s shrine, possessed with full capacity for appreciation of the aesthetic, and the beautiful. He must embody a courtesy and dignity lofty indeed, but never to the extent of stiffness or artificiality.
Tact and levelheadedness are important traits of one who must daily have close contact with a motley crowd, with people from all walks of life. Discretion must be shown at all times, especially in choice of subjects and material presented on trips. The grave danger of being too technical or of otherwise being incomprehensible, unintelligible to the average park visitor, must carefully be guarded against.
The poet, artist, and story teller must be combined with the teacher who can transfix in indelible characters the great truths of nature.
The best nature guide can not be too careful or fastidious about his appearance. A well-groomed guide always has a better chance to create a favorable reaction with his parties. Slovenliness and carelessness not only tend to draw personal criticism, but reflect on the general qualities of the whole ranger naturalist service.
Public attitude seems to register against female guides. Even though a woman possess a wealth of information, coupled with qualities enumerated above, she will not be as well received, will net be as successful, as the male guide.
To summarize: a guide must be thoroughly acquainted with the natural history of the park in which he works and with the peculiarities of the public with which he deals and he must be able to approach that public in a pleasing, worth while fashion.
In the discussions following Dr. Ruhle’s paper all were agreed as to the importance of technical qualifications. Considerable time was devoted to discussion of the personal qualifications of ranger naturalists as affecting the selection of members of the field staff and the administration of personnel during the field season. Several of the park naturalists related their personal experiences of meeting problems in this field which apparently can be handled only in a personal and tactful way.