Charlotte's Quest's Holly Fowler, on her love of nature, outdoor education, upcoming projects

Charlotte's Quest's Holly Fowler, on her love of nature, outdoor education, upcoming projects
Charlotte's Quest Nature Center's new team member Holly Fowler (Holly Fowler)

Holly Fowler is a relatively new addition to the Charlotte’s Quest Nature Center team. She and her family moved to Carroll County about five years ago after spending time in Baltimore City and on the Eastern Shore. Fowler and her husband have two daughters, ages 2 and 5, and say they are happy to be raising their young family in the Westminster area.

Fowler was born in South Florida and lived in Pennsylvania during her middle school and high school years. She moved to Maryland to attend Salisbury University. Living near various beaches, bays, and forest areas fueled her love of nature and she said she is thrilled to have the opportunity to share this love with others at Charlotte’s Quest.


“Naturalists and environmental educators teach by interpreting the world around us; there are scientific lessons involved, but perhaps, more importantly, we create opportunities for people to see the outdoors in a new light,” Fowler said.

Q: How and why did you get started in this field?

A. A lifelong love of the ocean put me on the fast track to a career as a marine biologist. I had wonderful internship opportunities in college that gave me a glimpse into what it was really like to be a research scientist. While the work was incredibly interesting, for me it was missing a key component — the chance to share my passion with others. After deciding last minute not to pursue a graduate degree in the sciences, I joined AmeriCorps through the Maryland Conservation Corps program after I graduated from college. I spent two years learning all facets of working in and around Maryland State Parks, and it was here that I was first involved with Environmental and Outdoor Education. I learned that these educators are the folks who teach others about the natural world — not necessarily scientists. I was hooked!

Q: What drew you to this position?

A: In 2015 I left a wonderful job at the National Aquarium to stay home full-time with my daughters. We filled our days with various kids activities throughout the community, including monthly preschool-age programs at Charlotte’s Quest. I found myself so drawn to this special place, and my children loved visiting. When I heard that they were looking for someone to lead programs, I knew I had to go for it. Not only was this a great opportunity to do something that I love and work close to home, but I also knew I had a lot of skills and experience that could help Charlotte's Quest grow to its full potential as an asset to the local community.

Q: How did your past experiences prepare you for this role?

A: My time at the National Aquarium provided invaluable experience in environmental education, working with volunteers, and project management — and it also showed me that working in the nonprofit field requires more than just passion for the mission. I realized that my science background did not equip me with the business skills necessary to manage programs. Behind the scenes, things like grant writing and fundraising, strategic planning, and effective communication are all needed to carry out day-to-day operations. I decided to pursue a master's degree in Nonprofit Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University. A B.S. in Biology and an M.A. in Nonprofit Management are not a likely combination, but my unique set of experiences and education lend themselves perfectly to working with a community nature center.

Q: Is there anything about the job or the field that you think people don't appreciate or don't know about, though maybe they should?

A: Working in conservation or outdoor education is perceived as being fun and rewarding — and indeed, it is! Because of this, breaking into this field can be much more difficult than people realize. Despite the fact that such positions are not known to be high-paying, there are often very few available opportunities and they are highly sought after. They also often require skills and experience that are very specific and hard to come by unless you've worked in the field. When someone asks me for advice, I always suggest volunteering. Not only does volunteer experience look great on a resume, but it allows for the chance to make meaningful connections in the field and also see what jobs are like in the real world. It is not until I got my feet wet through internships and Conservation Corps that I began to really understand the differences between a research scientist, a naturalist, a park ranger, natural resources police, or a forester. There are so many nuances and special skills associated with each of these outdoor roles, and seeing them in action is the best way to understand if one is right for you.

Also, not everyone who studies the ocean or works at an aquarium trains dolphins. There are many fish in the sea and many, many important and varied roles that are involved in ocean conservation.

Q: Once you settle in this new position, are there any projects you would like to undertake, or are there any ongoing projects or challenges you look forward to working on?

A: I am thrilled to be a part of many exciting changes that are underway at Charlotte's Quest! I've spent the past year working with the Board of Directors to identify new opportunities and areas for growth, and projects are all starting to come together. We're improving the building, expanding our offerings of field trips and programs, and finding new ways to stay connected with the community. While doors to the nature center will close December through early March, there will be lots of activity behind the scenes. Stay tuned for updates in early 2018 and follow Charlotte's Quest Nature Center on Facebook so you don't miss a thing.