CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sara Miller calls herself a "bird nerd."
Every Saturday morning during the summer months, she leads people through the woods of Kanawha State Forest, teaching them to identify birds by sight and by sound. It's a job she particularly enjoys.
"I've always been interested in nature, but in the past few years I've taken a special interest in birds," said the 24-year-old Charleston native. "This job allows me to apply that interest and help others develop an appreciation for birds and for nature."
Miller, who graduated from West Virginia University in 2010 with a degree in wildlife and fisheries biology, was a nature buff long before she ever left for college.
"I've lived in the woods almost since I was born," she said. "I could walk out my back door and be in the woods, and I spent as much time there as I could."
Some of Miller's first memories are of springtime morel hunts with her father.
"I was really little and low to the ground," she said, smiling. "I was a good mushroom finder even at that age."
Her grandfather fostered her avian fascination.
"I was 5 or 6 years old when he got me into birds," Miller recalled. "He started me with the cardinal because it was bright red, easy to see, and was the state bird. I've been a birder ever since, but I didn't get really serious about it until the first summer job I had while I was in college."
Miller and her coworkers were "nest searchers," tasked with finding birds' nests and monitoring their inhabitants' survival.
"To learn where the birds nested, we had to learn what habitat they preferred and how they sounded. We used the male birds' calls to get a general location, and then we watched the adults to find the nests themselves," she said.
The skills she picked up during that first summer job have served her well since last summer, when she became Kanawha State Forest's summertime resident naturalist.