While many love nature, not everyone is always so eager to get their hands dirty or interact with animals that are not as desirable, like as snakes, spiders, reptiles and bugs.

For Shelly Cox, a naturalist at Remington Nature Center, working with those animals is just another day on the job.

"A naturalist is somebody who interprets the natural world for individuals who maybe they don't know a whole lot about what's going on out there, so it's a way to relate stories and tell stories about the natural world to encourage people to preserve and care about the natural world," Cox says.

Cox has been deemed by many community members as the "bug lady," as she hosts many workshops at the nature center.

Her love for nature and creepy-crawly things began when she was a little girl and would spend time with her grandfather outside.

"My grandfather used to take me outside a lot and show me different things,"  Cox says. "It didn't matter if it was a slug on the sidewalk, or a snake that it showed up in the yard ... all of those things were exciting to him, so he made them exciting for me."

These adventures also sparked her love for snakes, Cox recalls.

"Then I remember there were several incidences as well when I was much older. My mother, she's terrified of snakes, and I thought any animal that could make her scream and run like that had to be pretty cool.”

Cox's time on the farm combined with volunteer work also helped to develop her love for animals.

"When I got married, we moved to a farm. About 15 years ago, I started doing a lot of wildlife rehab and taking in wildlife and caring for it and then doing volunteer work with the conservation department," Cox says. "So it's just kind of been all a lot of things that have been put in my past that have led me where I'm at."

She believes the job, which was once male-dominated, is a great career path for women.

"Now we're starting to see a lot more women that are embracing this, this type of career, and it's definitely growing in favor of women," she says. "I work with a lot of wonderful women."

While there are many interesting and fun parts of being a naturalist, Cox says her favorite part is being able to educate children.

"Dispelling those myths, watching their faces when they come in here. Maybe they're scared, and then within an hour you have them holding a snake," she says. "You see that fear turned to fascination and then pride at conquering a fear."

To learn more about Cox or the workshops she teaches, contact the Remington Nature Center at 816-271-5499.


Abby Trapp can be reached at abby.trapp@newspressnow.com

Follow on Twitter at @NPNowTrapp