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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Alumni Career Spotlight: Michael Keeler

Michael KeelerMichael Keeler
Natural Resource Management '20
Founder and Principal, Ohio Native Concepts, LLC

As an undergraduate student, Michael studied Natural Resource Management and completed his degree in SENR in 2020. During school, he volunteered extensively within Franklin and Licking County doing things such as invasive species removal and planting trees. Currently, he serves as the Founder and Principal of Ohio Native Concepts, LLC. 


A Glance at Michael’s Current Work


I am the founder and principal of Ohio Native Concepts LLC (ONC LLC), an ecological landscape design firm based in Columbus that specializes in native plant gardens, ecological restoration, and invasive species management. I work with commercial, government, and residential clients in Franklin and surrounding counties. My design approach focuses on creating spaces that connect humans to nature and improve ecological function and biodiversity of the area. By creatively combining art with ecology, ONC LLC creates living landscapes that are as beautiful and meaningful as they are resilient and sustainable.

As a business owner, a typical day for me varies day to day and season to season. Spring and Summer months consist of consultations with clients, designing landscapes, or installing designs that were completed over the Winter. Fall is when we are the busiest because it is the optimal 

time to install native plants. Some jobs are installed in one day, others can take multiple days or more. In the Winter months we are focused on invasive species management and a typical day consists of using mechanical and chemical methods to remove invasive species and establish native species in their place. Apart from the services we provide, I spend a great deal of time doing administrative tasks like answering phone calls and emails, preparing social media posts, and planning and scheduling projects. Each day is an adventure and there is always something to do!

The most rewarding part of my job is getting to work closely with my clients to help them become stewards of our environment. I love seeing my clients learn about their property and get inspired to plant native species. Besides working closely with my clients, it is extremely rewarding to wake up every day and do what I love the most, which is something I feel very privileged to experience.


Professional Development

What were you involved in during college?

When not working or studying, I would volunteer with various environmental organizations in Franklin and Licking County. I volunteered at invasive species removal events, tree plantings and other environmental stewardship events and workshops around my community.

I interned as a Natural Resource Manager and Interpretive Naturalist for a campground named Lazy River at Granville, in Granville, Ohio. As a Natural Resource Manager, I was tasked with identifying, planning, and monitoring various ecosystem restoration projects. Some of my projects included invasive species management, stream bank restoration, and establishing pollinator habitat. As an Interpretive Naturalist, I created and implemented various interpretive programs including kick-net stream surveying, guided hikes, and other interactive activities for adults and children. After my internship ended, I was invited to stay on and retain my job titles. My experience at Lazy River at Granville allowed me to explore my personal and academic interests and establish a strong foundation for a future in Natural Resources. Each day was exciting, rewarding, and educational.


What advice would you give to someone who is still in college and hoping to do what you do?

Find your niche or what you enjoy the most and take as many courses in that area as possible. Really explore the topic and put yourself in a position to become an expert in that area. If your curriculum doesn’t offer as many courses on a specific subject as you would like, speak to your advisor or mentor about substituting one course for another. I did this several times, and it allowed me to really dive into my areas of interest.


What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?

By far, my internship was the most important and valuable experience for my professional development. My internship allowed me to explore my interests, make professional contacts, and develop skills that I use every day to run Ohio Native Concepts LLC.


What was a challenge you faced in your professional development and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I faced in my professional development was establishing my business and building a client base. To establish my business, I had to put myself out into the world not knowing if people would like my business model, or if there was a large enough market to sustain my business. I also had to take financial and personal risks, but I am passionate about what I do so that made the risk worth it. I overcame these challenges by leaning on my knowledge base and with the support of my community.


Post-GraduationMichael Keeler

What did you immediately do post-graduation?

Post-graduation, I continued to work in my position at Lazy River at Granville as a Natural Resource Manager and Interpretive Naturalist. I did this as my full-time job until I felt ready to launch my business in 2021.

I started applying for jobs post-graduation but found there was not a job that existed that allowed me to connect my community with nature in the way I wanted. My internship showed me that people were eager to learn how to be better stewards of the environment, but they didn’t know where to start. I saw an opportunity to not only continue to be a steward of the environment myself but also help others do the same.


What was most important to you in your job search?

The most important thing I looked for in a job was if I would enjoy it. After reading a job listing, I would pause and ask myself, “Will you be happy doing this every day?”. I knew if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, no amount of pay or benefits would change how I felt.


How to connect with Michael:

(614) 561-1673

Facebook: @Ohionativeconceptsllc 

Instagram: @Ohio_Native_Concepts_LLC