Veronica Van Hof ’15
As a child growing up near Newark, N.J., Veronica Van Hof yearned to one day live in a more rustic setting. In 2015, Veronica got her wish as she was named the resident director of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in rural Newfield, N.J. Now, Veronica lives in a cabin heated only by a wood stove on the 800-acre refuge located deep in the heart of the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey.
“I have to admit, when I first moved here, the biggest adjustment was getting used to the wood stove. I adore the solitude,” Veronica says. “I fall asleep to the sounds of coyotes and great horned owls outside of my window. I have really learned to enjoy this lifestyle, from learning how to split firewood to the lack of the sounds of civilization. I have a border collie mix and a cattle dog and they, along with the Canada geese, are tremendous watchdogs. Nothing comes near this house without them knowing about it first.”
“I do what I love to do and get paid for it. What could be better than that?”
As a resident director, Veronica writes grants, arranges educational events and after-school programs, makes social media postings, and works with volunteers to maintain and patrol the Refuge’s 10 miles of trails. She also mitigates wildlife issues in nearby communities by helping local residents learn how to live alongside wildlife and by teaching them to resolve conflicts humanely. The refuge has a zero interference policy, meaning it does not provide artificial housing or food sources for the wildlife.
“I can hear our resident bald eagles calling to each other or watch the beavers collecting building materials for their lodge on a cold day. I get to experience all this without ever leaving my living room,” Veronica says.
Veronica obtained her associate’s degree in journalism and worked as a journalist for a local newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania and also worked in media relations. At the age of 35, she decided to pursue her true passion and enrolled at Keystone as a wildlife biology major.
She loved her time at Keystone and credits, among others, Professor Jerry Skinner for his expertise and interest in nature and the environment. About seven months after graduating, Veronica obtained her position with the wildlife refuge. Right now, she can’t ask for anything more.