Ijams Nature Center today announced the hiring of Amber Parker as Executive Director of the 300-acre greenspace and wildlife refuge in South Knoxville. Parker will join the organization Feb. 20.
Parker has more than 20 years of professional experience in the environmental education field, most recently serving as executive director for Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Wallops Island, Virginia, where she cultivated partnerships with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, NASA and other educational institutions and conservation agencies.
“Amber is going to make an outstanding leader for our organization,” said Kim Bumpas, board chair for Ijams Nature Center. “Through our extensive interview process, we found the perfect candidate.”
Ijams Nature Center is an award-winning urban greenspace located less than four miles from downtown Knoxville. The nonprofit organization ensures the preservation and maintenance of wildlife habitat, natural areas and facilities, as well as oversees and expands educational and recreational programming.
“I am proud and excited to join the Ijams Nature Center organization,” Parker said. “I look forward to working with such a passionate group of individuals as we all pursue the same mission of preservation and conservation. East Tennessee is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, and I look forward to making it my home.”
Parker succeeds Ijams’ previous executive director, Paul James, who resigned in September of 2016. Bo Townsend will continue to serve as interim director until Parker’s arrival in February.
“We are so grateful for Bo’s unwavering support of this organization,” Bumpas said. “We appreciate his willingness to return as interim director and stay with us until the transition is complete.”
Townsend served as executive director for Ijams Nature Center for 10 years prior to leaving to become a minister in 1999. He returned Oct. 3, 2016, to take the helm during the search for a new executive director.
“I have enjoyed serving Ijams Nature Center during this interim period,” Townsend said. “Ijams is such an important asset to our East Tennessee community, and I look forward to seeing what great things Amber Parker can accomplish here.”
Parker also has experience in East Tennessee. She served as special programs coordinator and education director at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont from 2001-08. Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from North Carolina State University in 1994, as well as a master’s degree in environmental studies from Prescott College in Arizona in 2007.
“The positive energy surrounding Ijams is unmistakable, and we are looking forward to a very bright future in 2017,” Bumpas said. “I know Amber will make a significant impact at Ijams.”
In 2015, Ijams entered a multiyear regional partnership with Asheville, North Carolina-based Navitat, a tree-based canopy zip line adventure. This partnership elevates Ijams as a regional outdoor attraction and complements the outdoor adventure offerings in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.