This spring, Mary Jo Doyle was on vacation in Australia when she received a phone call from a close friend: There was a job opening at Seneca Meadows, and her friend hoped she would apply.
The position was for an Audubon environmental educator, which seemed like the perfect fit for Doyle. The Syracuse native had recently retired after 30 years of teaching biology in Waterloo and Seneca Falls.
"(My friend) described it and I said, 'That really is right up my alley,'" Doyle said, laughing. "I felt like this was a great opportunity to still be a part of education and really get into the stuff that I love ... getting kids and families to love the outdoors and nature as much as I do."
Doyle said she and her husband, Chuck, rushed home from Australia and filled out an application. And at the end of May, she began working at the Seneca Meadows Wetlands Preserve and Education Center in Seneca Falls.
Doyle's interest in the environment stemmed from a young age, she said, noting that it just felt natural to pursue a career in biology. Born in Syracuse, Doyle said she was raised in Auburn while her dad taught chemistry in Skaneateles.
"I really can't pinpoint it, but it started at a pretty early age," she said. "Before high school, I just loved nature and being outside and things like that. ... I just think I had the science teacher gene."
After graduating from Auburn High School, Doyle earned a bachelor's degree in forest biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a master's degree in secondary science education from Syracuse University, and she began teaching science at Waterloo High School. She remained there for 15 years before transferring to Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls, and she dabbled as an informal educator at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Beaver Lake Nature Center and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in between.
"I did work a lot with snakes and turtles and amphibians as an informal educator," Doyle said. "And I'm a gardener. ... I love creating gardens for birds and butterflies."
And now, two years after retiring from teaching in Seneca Falls, Doyle said she's excited to get back into a career in education.
As the new Audubon environmental educator at Seneca Meadows, Doyle said she will primarily assist the education center in planning and presenting programs for local children and families. Her first program, Kids Yoga & Scavenger Hunt, will be held Saturday morning. Doyle said 3- to 6-year-old children are welcome to participate in some animal yoga poses with a certified yoga instructor. Then, Doyle will team up with families for an hour-long scavenger hunt in the wetland preserve.
And while Doyle is currently more of an informal educator for these programs, she said she's also interested in collaborating with local schools to establish some more formal educational opportunities.
"There's so much going on here and so much potential," she said. "I'd like to get involved a little bit more with reaching out and forming some partnerships in the community. ... We really have a whole lot to offer."