Along with a recent purchase of additional property by the state, the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve is expanding in other ways.

With just two field employees, one being the preserve manager Dylan Shoemaker, much needed help was added with the hiring of Abby Henke.

“Her position is brand new to the buffer,” said Shoemaker. “It pretty exciting to have another field person and education outreach person here.”

Shoemaker added that due to his responsibilities as preserve manager, Allix North, the other field employee, is often left to do most of the work by herself.

Henke will fill in and assist North, as well as take on the educational outreach portion of the Buffer’s mission.

The new employee will also take over the tram tours that the Buffer hosts.

A recent graduate of Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, Henke is excited to get her career going at the Buffer.

“I really enjoy it,” Henke said. “It’s interesting to learn about a brand new eco-system than what I am used to seing from Ohio.”

While she hasn’t been able to spot Florida’s most famous resident, the alligator, yet. Henke has been blown away in her first two weeks on the job by the diversity within the Buffer.

“I feel like it is special,” Henke said. “There are so many different habitat types packed into such a small space and it is so diverse in there.”

Henke is looking forward most to something that Florida residents have gotten used to, prescribed burns.

“I would never have imagined myself doing that kind of thing,” Henke said.

While prescribed burns are new to the Ohio native, Henke said that she is ready to do whatever she can do to help out the Buffer.