What professional hat do you wear?
I work for National Park Service (NPS) as an Ecologist. My primary focus is on rangelands/livestock and also grassland ecosystems.
What does a day in your life look like now?
Our office is a national office so no two days are ever the same. I spend a large amount of time working on grassland restoration projects in the eastern U.S. Many of these restoration projects involve work on NPS Civil War battlefield parks. These are complex projects that are meant to enhance the natural resources of historical areas entrusted to the NPS to preserve a very important piece of our nation’s history. These are collaborative projects involving many partners, both public and private.
I also do a lot of range and livestock focused work in the western U.S. This can include restoration, management, monitoring and meeting with permittees.
What inspires you to go to work every day?
I am passionate about what I do and my days and weeks FLY by. Many natural resource professionals are seeing a decline in available resources and I find it very engaging and fun to collaboratively identify creative solutions to complex problems, even in the face of diminishing resources.
One of the biggest drivers for me, is to leave the natural resources in a little better condition for the next generation. We are here for such a short period of time in an ecological/biological context, but we can have substantial impacts, both good and bad, during our short stay. My hope is to have/leave a positive impact on the resource and be sure the next generation has the ability to enjoy the outdoors or in an agricultural context, the ability to make a living.
How did your degree set you up?
More ways than I can describe but Ill highlight a few:
My M.S. in Rangeland Ecosystem Sciences under Dr. Paul Meiman was the most important, challenging, and rewarding degree that I have earned. (And I can officially say I am now a “range nerd”)
Dr. Meiman taught me the importance of taking a holistic look at ecosystems. What I mean by that statement is this; understand the soils, vegetation types, wildlife and domestic stock use, past management actions, and land use today and determine how all of the said points are interacting.
My master's degree taught me the importance of applied ecology. As I mentioned, our office covers the entire country and I am not an expert on each ecosystem across the country, but being able to ask the right questions, collect the right data, and apply ecological principles allows me to work in and understand a vast number of ecosystems across the country.
What words of wisdom can you offer current students?
Work your behind off to get to where you want to go. Nothing is going to be done for you. Your achievements will be a result of your hard work.
Find a good mentor that will help guide you. When you find someone that is in a position or career that you are trying to obtain, talk to them, ask them how they got to where they are and gather their thoughts on what you could do to achieve the same success.
Natural Resources management may not have the highest salary, but in my opinion, this career is the “good life”. I continually remind myself that I get paid to work in areas that most people pay money to vacation in! Work doesn’t feel like work to me.
Early in your career you will likely have to take entry level positions and work your way up to a permanent position. Be patient and persistent until you achieve the position you are after, it will be worth it.
Check out as many different topic areas in natural resources as you can. I started a career in wildlife and quickly found a desire to work in rangelands after I took a random class in rangeland ecology taught by Dr. Meiman.
What motto do you live by?
There is an old saying, the harder you try the luckier you get. I like that definition of luck- Gerald R. Ford
This quote always reminds me to keep trying, keep working hard, and continually get creative, and when you hear the phrase “it can’t be done”, go out and prove how it can be done. Luck is not a “thing” to me. Successful people get to where they are or where they want to go by making a plan and hard work.
Second, communicate, communicate, communicate- We need to always be talking to coworkers, project partners, producers, groups with differing opinions, groups with the same viewpoints, etc. This helps us understand issues and how to identify solutions. If communication is not a strength of yours I would challenge you to try and start talking to professionals that are in the career you want.