In May, we recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.
This year, we'd like to share the stories of some of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department colleagues who have made it their personal mission to help others enjoy the outdoors.
Wei-Wei Startz, Texas Game Warden
I am 6 feet tall and an Asian American female and I've always wanted to pursue a career in the conservation field. I use every opportunity to set an example for other women. Through my appearance on Lone Star Law and in person at local events, I hope to encourage others to connect with the outdoors. I want people to know there are no boundaries on their goals, including participating in outdoor activities.
I was born in Taiwan and spent the early part of my childhood in the mountains and streams of the Taiwanese wilderness. I remember going fishing and hiking with my family. I immigrated to Texas in grade school and spent many weekends on my grandparent’s ranch in the outdoors.
Ultimately, what made me decide to work as a Texas Game Warden is understanding that the conservation laws are in place to help protect our natural resources. They ensure the wildlife and fish populations are sustainable. I want to be able to help enforce these laws.
In many countries that do not have conservation law enforcement in place, there are areas that are overfished and lacking in natural resources. I feel blessed to live in a country where we do have conservation laws and where there is access to natural resources.
Paul Silva, Natural Resource Specialist
Being an avid angler, it was natural for me to pursue a job in the fisheries field. During my 22 years at the CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi, I helped produce more than a half-million fingerlings for stocking into Texas bays. In my current position, I help protect and enhance the natural habitats for fish and wildlife.
When not working, I enjoy spending time outdoors whether it be fishing, hunting, playing sports or just taking a leisurely hike. I try not to take nature for granted and get outdoors as much as possible.
It’s important to me to share my knowledge, experience and appreciation of outdoors activities by teaching others, especially youth. I am an instructor for angler, hunter, boater and archery education. I volunteer with Fishing’s Future to provide fishing education to families. I also serve as an advisor to the South Texas Master Naturalist Chapter.
Sheila Zhou, Manager of IT Operations
When I joined TPWD as a junior programmer 16 years ago, I didn’t plan to stay for very long. With time passing, I am more and more inspired by the agency’s mission and my colleagues’ commitment. Now I feel very fortunate to have a career that fills my soul.
As a nature lover, hiking and travel are in my blood. What really broadened my spectrum was participating the Texas Outdoor Family workshop when my kids were 3 and 5 years old. My whole family enjoyed the camping experience immensely and started exploring backpacking, camping and later boondocking in the wilderness.
Enjoying every minute of each journey, we share our experience and encourage others to connect with the outdoors. My son, seeing many first-generation immigrants who lack the knowledge and experience of camping, partnered with Texas Outdoor Family and organized a group camping workshop for about 20 families. They were all from Austin Chinese American Network and most were first-time campers.
My husband is the coordinator of an online travel forum and a travel blogger. I am a go-to person for my friends and colleague for trip planning, national parks and wilderness exploring. I am a level 6 contributor on TripAdvisor, which is the highest level in this online community.
I am proud to be a member of the high-caliber Information Technology team to support the agency mission of managing and conserving our natural resources.
Kiki Corry, Project Wild Coordinator
My path to Texas Parks and Wildlife was a twisty-turny series of stepping stones that prepared me for my position here as Coordinator of Project WILD, a series of TEKS-aligned workshops that make teaching with nature easy and fun.
As a child I was naturally curious about nature— identification of stones from my geologist father, the names and life histories of the bugs I found in the trees I climbed. So, biology was the path of least resistance when it came to selecting a field of study.
A wastewater lab job led me into environmental interests and volunteering at a nature preserve. There I cultivated my love of teaching and my volunteer management skills. By the time I finished my master’s degree in science education, I had experience in and out of the classroom and a special appreciation for working with volunteers, which is exactly what I needed to step into the role of Project WILD coordinator.
As Project WILD coordinator, I help teachers connect the things that they have to teach with their love of teaching about nature and being in the outdoors. So many of them know they should be making the connections, they just don’t know how. Project WILD gives them the tools. Personally, I lead by example; if you want to spend time with me, it’ll probably be in a park.
One memorable experience I had was leading a group of elementary school children on a hike, interpreting the flora, fauna and landscape as we went. I had stopped at an overlook site where they could see the geologic layers and I could talk about the limestone and the cretaceous sea that had formed it.
Suddenly they were all crowded around something on the ground. There was a beetle slowly rolling a ball across the trail. When you’ve been upstaged by a dung beetle, you just have to go with it. Suddenly those old rocks didn’t matter at all and we were all about watching her make it all the way to the hole under the rock on the edge of the path.