Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 21, 2014

Nicely relishes the opportunity to serve in a male-dominated vocation

Oct 25, 2013
Photo by: Trisha Phelps Henry County Naturalist Cari Nicely

Editor’s note: Over the last quarter of a century, women have began serving in many employment capacities formerly dominated by men. Today, The News profiles some of those changes in its annual Women in Business section included with today’s News.

By TRISHA PHELPS

Mt. Pleasant News

Thanks to a lot of hard work and her love for the outdoors, Cari Nicely has found a career she enjoys even if it is a stereotypical “man’s job.”

Nicely is the naturalist for the Henry County Conservation department and she fully admits that she gets some slack (never from co-workers) about being a female.

“I totally am a woman in a man’s world, completely,” said Nicely. “I will get people who will look at me and tell me something and then I will correct them. A blonde haired, blue-eyed woman correcting them? Some don’t really like that.

“They really like it when I teach hunter’s education,” she laughed as she continued. “Now you’ve got a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl that is going to teach it? Yep. And that girl is me!”

Even if people aren’t used to a female knowing more about wildlife than they do, Nicely has the experience and credentials to back her up.

“Since I didn’t know what I was doing (at another job involving conservation),” she said sarcastically, “I decided to go back to school to get that certificate behind my name for validation.”

Nicely got her degree in parks and natural resources from Kirkwood Community College. She also has a degree in landscape and design from Kirkwood.

“Upon my graduation, this job for Henry County Conservation was available and I applied for the job just kind of on a whim,” she said. “I had been taught in my classes how to interview for county conservation and I felt pretty confident when I was in a room with five people grilling me on who I am as well as what I know. I felt pretty confident and comfortable in the fact that I had been prepared for what I was doing so I was thrilled.”

While people may think of county conservation as being more of career for men, Nicely says that being a woman has helped her get her point across when it really mattered.

“The best part about being a woman on this job is that kids respond really well to a girl,” Nicely said. “I want the kids to learn that respect for animals and hold that for the rest of their lives. The best experience I can give them is to have that live animals right in front of them in a classroom.”

Nicely goes to classrooms around the county and teachers youngsters about different animals, plants and other parts of conservation.

“I teach them that it is ok, they don’t have to like everything out there, but they do have to respect them for what they do and what part they play in the natural world,” Nicely said. “If they don’t want to touch the snake I bring in, they don’t have to, but they do have to respect it.”

Even if being a female helped her connect with students, Nicely was quick to say that male naturalists bring their own strengths to the job as well.

“I know a lot of male naturalists who have a lot of followers,” said Nicely. “Even if there are some things boys can do that girls can’t do, everyone needs to know their own limitations, boy or girl, and be willing to admit it when you need help,” Nicely said. “You should know your limitations, but never let anything hold you back from something you want to do. Nothing should hold you back from at least trying. That is how I got here and I plan on staying here.”

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