Brent Wilkins has loved nature and the outdoors for as long as he can remember. Wilkins grew up exploring the wilds of Oklahoma with his father and grandfather and began volunteering with exotic animals before graduating high school. As an adult, he’s worked as a zookeeper, environmental programs specialist, and now as the volunteer coordinator at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center.
A self-described people person, Wilkins believes his duties at Jones Park fit his personality perfectly. He’s grateful for the opportunity to interact with a variety of interesting people in a setting that he enjoys.
You can learn more about Wilkins and his work with wildlife and nature below.
What should people know about you?
I grew up in Oklahoma City as the youngest of three brothers. My paternal grandparents were ministers, and my maternal grandparents ran a small dairy farm and a second-hand store. Before retiring a few years ago, my father worked in law enforcement, and my mother worked in the oil and gas field. I don’t have any children yet, but I enjoy spending time with my niece and nephew.
Parks and volunteerism have been an integral part of my life for many years. I started my professional career volunteering at the Oklahoma City Zoological Park & Botanical Garden during high school, dedicating 500 hours before I received my first job as a zookeeper. Working as a volunteer, with volunteers, and now as a volunteer coordinator has been a lot of fun.
When I’m not coordinating volunteers, I enjoy spending my free time engaging in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, and traveling. This goes back to my roots, as my grandfather helped build the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma as an employee with the Works Progress Administration. My father and I have spent countless hours exploring this area, along with many other scenic places.
What professional details would you like to share with readers?
I studied zoology at the University of Oklahoma, and I have worked at four zoos across the southern United States. My specialty was taking care of African savanna animals, but I also worked in the education department at the Dallas Zoo. In addition, I served six months in AmeriCorps, working at a national wildlife refuge in Oklahoma, and I was the volunteer coordinator at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. I am excited to bring this experience to Jones Park.
What brought you to Jones Park?
I was looking for a warmer climate with both natural and developed areas. After living in both urban and rural areas, I found that I enjoy working in a natural setting but living in a more developed area. This is because I enjoy protecting wildlife in its natural habitat, but I’m also a people person. Jones Park is the perfect combination of everything I like.
Because I have a special appreciation for volunteers, working as the volunteer coordinator at Jones Park is a great role for me. I’m delighted to have the privilege to work with such a great group of volunteers and staff.
I am also passionate about parks and recreation. I enjoy the work and believe in the value of providing accessible, high-quality greenspaces and recreational amenities to the public.
List a few fun facts about yourself.
My favorite colors are blue and green. I was once asked why these are my favorite colors. After thinking about it for a moment, I concluded that blue is the color of water, the most essential component of life, and green is the color of plants, a key source of oxygen, wildlife habitat, and the foundation of the food chain. Without blue and green, we would not have biodiversity – something that I have devoted my life to protecting.
I can communicate in Spanish at an intermediate level. In college, I was required to take two years of a foreign language, so I chose Spanish and fell in love with the language and Latin American culture. Because I lived in several Spanish-speaking communities, traveled to two Latin American countries, and have many Latino friends, I have had plenty of opportunities to practice over the years.
During college and between internships, I worked at a couple of upscale hotels in Oklahoma City. When celebrities came to town, they often stayed at our hotels. Some of the celebrities I’ve served include Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Reba McEntire, and Diane Keaton. If you ever want to hear about my interesting encounters with celebrities, just ask.