Joe Wyatt has a long list of responsibilities as naturalist at Hammock Bay in Freeport, but he's able to narrow it down in his Twitter bio.
"I manage the birds and bees, the flowers and the trees," it says.
The Illinois native has built a career in the outdoors working in forest services and providing environmental consulting throughout the United States.
"I love nature," he said. "Sometimes, it's not so fond of me. Like the time when I was chased by wolves in Alaska."
For the past seven years, Wyatt has been working at Hammock Bay, doing everything from hosting nature walks, to tagging Monarch butterflies and even clearing undeveloped land.
"I don't have a day-to-day job, it changes every single day," he said. "That's what I love."
Wyatt's last residence was Colorado, where he worked as an environmental consultant. He grew up in Rochelle, Ill., right outside of Chicago. Heading south was a good choice, he said, especially for a nature lover such as himself.
"The Panhandle is one of the most diverse places in the country," he remarked.
It's certainly not common for developments to have an on-staff naturalist working to preserve the land instead of clearing it. Wyatt credits that vision to Hammock Bay's developer Jay Odom.
"Developments always get a bad rap, but there are ways to do developments and be in tune with nature and its surroundings," Wyatt said.
That's where Wyatt comes in — from monitoring the eco-friendly pest control program, to creating shelter for the hundreds of bluebirds to protecting Oak trees.
"It's about making a difference for future generations," he said. "I hope every new development would do that same thing. It's a model worth emulating whether it's 10 acres or 100."
There are about 65 bird houses scattered throughout Hammock Bay, housing hundreds of birds such as bluebirds and purple martins every year.
As part of the eco-friendly pest control program, birds, bats and even the fish stocked in the pond (Hammock Bay is a catch and release fishing site), feed on the insects instead of spraying harmful chemicals. Reclaimed water is used to water the grounds. Wyatt even surveys the land, marking trees and saving them from being cut down.
"They moved an entire softball field to avoid removing an oak tree," Wyatt said proudly.
As a nature lover, Wyatt said he would be more than happy to share ideas with like-minded developers on how to protect nature and its inhabitants while building.
By the Bay Clubhouse is about 45-acres of undeveloped land. Wyatt has been slowly clearing the land section by section to protect the bobwhite quail, an endangered species. Land in front of the clubhouse will be left alone since it is full of old, oak trees.
Yard work is just another part of the job, Wyatt said.
"My hands will fit around the wheel of a tractor or shovel as well as computer keyboard," he said. "I do whatever I can to make a long-term difference."
One of Wyatt's favorite parts of his job is interacting with the public. On the first Saturday of every month, he hosts a nature walk around Hammock Bay, where he introduces people of all ages to the diverse nature around them.
"The more you know about it, the more you understand how miraculous it is," he said.
Down the road, the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is rehabilitating injured animals. Regularly, they release them in Hammock Bay, where they will be safe. Wyatt turns these events into a learning experience, inviting the public to witness the animal release while sharing info.
"We've released owls, hawks, flying squirrels, even an eagle," he said.
Not everybody gets to work toward a cause they're passionate about, and Wyatt certainly realizes how lucky he is to get to do what he loves every day.
"It is absolutely a dream job," he said. "Lots of people have trouble finding things they were meant to do. This is what I was meant to do."
WANT TO GO? Join Naturalist Joe Wyatt for a nature walk around Hammock Bay 9 a.m. the first Saturday of every month. For more information about Hammock Bay and upcoming events, visit www.hammockbayfreeport.com.