From the time he began scooping tadpoles with a dip net, Graham Williams says he’s always been fascinated by the natural world.
“I was always outdoors, armed with a fishing pole, BB gun, or both, and I spent my youth catching anything I could,” recalls Williams, a St. Johns River Water Management District land manager for the agency’s middle basin (south-central) region. “In college, I studied biology to have a good excuse to chase snakes and catch turtles. I was always fascinated with all things scaled. As I progressed through college and entered my career path, I became more interested in ecology and particularly Florida ecosystems and their dependence on fire.”
The kid whose parents tolerated his tendency to bring home “smelly animals” and fill his bedroom with aquariums and field guides joined the District in 2015 as a land management specialist in the agency’s north region following his nine-year stint with the Florida Park Service. A year and a half later, Williams was promoted to his current position.
Like many of his peers in land management, Williams says there’s no such thing as a typical day at work — and that’s what he loves about his job.
“One day I might be up at 4 a.m. preparing to catch and band endangered woodpeckers in the pine flatwoods; the next day I may be checking on the progress of restoration work in the scrub, preparing maps for an upcoming project on a winding river, operating heavy equipment to install a fire break along the edge of a swamp, posting a boundary line through a sandhill, or lighting a marsh on fire for a prescribed burn,” he says. “This job throws a lot of varied tasks at me and my plate is always full. However, that keeps it interesting, challenging and rewarding.”
More than the work itself, what keeps Williams excited about his job is working alongside creative, talented and diverse people.
“I love the collaborative environment and I get recharged by bouncing ideas off of my team and working with a large diverse set of stakeholders on collective solutions toward common goals,” he says. “The lands, the wildlife, and the other resources make this job rewarding, but the people make it exciting.”
Williams says he feels fortunate to be play an important role in the District’s mission to protect Florida’s natural systems.
“With the rapid loss of these types of natural areas occurring across the state, I feel very honored to be charged with the responsibility for caring for some of these important natural resources,” Williams explains. “I also take great pride in being able to share these lands with the public by providing hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and many other resource-based recreational opportunities on our properties. I hope to leave behind a legacy of good land stewardship and responsible public use.”