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Duties of ranger a joy for student at UC Merced

Gesha Uminskiy never imagined he would one day work as a ranger at Yosemite National Park.

"I have been backpacking for a good part of my lifetime," the 22-year-old student said. "I've always seen rangers out doing their patrol and always thought how cool of a job is that to hike around and do all the stuff that they do. But I never thought that I would actually have a chance to do that."

An environmental engineering student at the University of California at Merced, Uminskiy participated in an internship program four years ago at the national park through the university and got a chance to perform the duties of a ranger. The next year, Uminskiy was hired to work at the park, where he has been ever since.

Uminskiy works in the education division during the school year. He helps bridge the gap between area high schools and the park with presentations at the schools and taking students to visit Yosemite. "Students who live in the Central Valley or are even in the surrounding areas have never been to the park before," he said. "It's a high percentage, so we are trying to definitely bring that down."

During the summer, Uminskiy works in the visitor protection division.

Safety is No. 1 concern

Uminskiy said he's enjoyed working at the park for the past four years. "The things I come to do, I really believe in," he explained. "I really believe in protecting the areas that I personally really enjoy spending time in. There are not too many places left like that in the world that are underdeveloped and kind of pristine."

He feels strongly about preserving undeveloped lands, which is the reason he chose to major in environmental engineering.

"I want to try to make the world a better place," he said. "I think that with the park service I've had the opportunity to do just that."

Through his job, Uminskiy also has the opportunity to engage in other interesting activities, such as talking with people from around the world. "It's a very diverse park. Everyone has their own story of why they are there and what they plan to do," he said. "It's always an interesting conversation." Sometimes, he's even had the chance to put his Russian language skills to use.

The park gets about 4 million visitors every year and sometimes that presents challenges. "There are sometimes conflicts between what visitors feel they have the right to do and what we can allow people to do," he explained.

Uminskiy said sometimes park rangers need to place restrictions and there are occasions when visitors don't enjoy that. "So that makes the job a little difficult," he added.

Uminskiy said the park is a wild place, so safety is the No. 1 concern. The park service posts signs and tries to pass out information to visitors about dangerous spots and risky activities, he added.

But it's also the visitors' responsibility to maintain their well-being, he said. "You have to remember that you are the one who's looking out for your safety, and that should be your No. 1 priority," he said.

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