Finally landed a Field Job


Img: NE Nevada Range land. 

After hundreds of failed job applications and millions of revisions of my cover letter methods and resumes, I finally landed a job as an Invasive Plant Technician.

The job was with the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition in Elko, NV.  At the time, I hardly had a though about Nevada as a place that exists in the world, but it is now one of my favorite places that I have been to!  There’s hot springs, hundreds of mountain ranges, lots of wildlife, and forests of big sage and rabbit brush. Each range looks drab and monotonous from a distance, but once investigated, each one proved to have a unique community of life.

My responsibilities for this position was to help monitor and “control” invasive and noxious plant species.  If you don’t know much about invasives, they can be nasty little buggers and degrade a habitat of its biodiversity in a matter of a couple of years.  I would say that most of them that make the list as noxious or invasive, is a political objective for ranchers to maximize the amount of productive range land.  Herbicide use is pretty nasty stuff and is very often grossly over used, but with a couple of species of plants it is the only effective method.

We worked 4 tens, which means 4 ten hour days, the pay was great, and a three day weekend allowed for exploring the west.  I spent time in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and Utah; I visited national parks, state parks, forests, and BLM range.

This job and the people I worked with created a deeper hunger to work on conservation projects and to learn more and more about the natural world.  Identifying plant life became a hobby of mine that started here and I continue to do it on hikes and almost anytime spent outdoors.

Since most of us want to do some sort of field research, it becomes a priority for most hiring organizations to require some time worked in the field, this can be tough to achieve (like I said they want field work experience).  It may not be a great method to get your foot in the door for some, but it is a place to gain experience that usually doesn’t have any hardlined requirements, besides some grit, gotta have grit.

The camaraderie  of working with people who are all interested in conserving biodiversity ethical behavior, and living sustainable lives was very refreshing, escpecially when compared to the sort of people you work with at retail stores!  I still keep in contact with a few of them, and miss them all lots.



New: Resources Page

img_2273   [Hummingbird nest]

Keeping up with today’s technology and fast paced environment is a huge feat!  Data analysis and modeling have become a very popular way to study our natural world and so it is increasingly important to acquire programming skills.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, it’s a lot to ask a Biologist or Ecologist to also be able to program, luckily there are websites that makes learning languages such as python, sql, and R a piece of pie.

These are posted in the resources page, along with job employment websites in our field.  These websites make learning programming super easy.  They take you step by step and are meticulously designed to make sure you get help when and where you need it.  Best of all is…..they are FREE!!!!!   You shouldn’t have to pay to learn computer programming with these and other resources on the web, unless you are interested in taking a college course, which I would highly recommend.

So take fifteen minutes out of your day every day and learn some programming, you’ll be glad you did!

Working towards my first gig

It was a few months after graduating with my degree before I realized (and I assume most grads do) that a bachelors degree isn’t enough to land you a job that you were promised. With most jobs asking for a years experience at least, I set my sights on volunteering to gain that experience.

Since I had to work full time to pay for living, I began with small stuff. I started doing waterfowl monitoring weekly for the county.  This was a great opportunity and I know it’s a sacrifice of time, energy, and money, but it does pay off!  I then also found another volunteer position where I monitored raptors in the county.  Both of these were pivotal in creating the base of my career experience.

It began with researching wildlife monitoring positions in my area and contacting the organizations running them.  Just a simple email opens up so many doors, I can’t express that enough.  People in our field are very loving and want to expand the community involvement in conservation of our wild lands. So never think that you’ll be a burden because they all love teaching young scientists the ropes.  The only gear that I needed was a snack and binoculars. I didn’t have the car at the time, so walking and the bus was my mode of transportation. It was tough, and I was already used to tough from living on a slim budget and eating rice and beans, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything!

Soon I will be posting a page where you all can find job opportunities in these fields.  It has taken me awhile to amass this solid list and I feel like it is a great resource in putting your education out into the field.

First blog post

I should’ve and have been told by many people to start a blog years ago and am finally getting around to it.  My intent on this blog is to help young biologists and ecologists by giving them an idea of what the post-college pathway looks and feels like.  I know of only one other blog like this and it has been updated for years, so maybe it’s time for me to carry the torch…

Suppose I should start by giving a brief background on my upbringing and education.  I grew up in a rural area in the mid-west (a town of 900 people) and spent a fair amount of time in river floodplains, giant cottonwoods and evergreen forests. My grade school teacher was a superb naturalist and I believe he helped instill a deep interest of the outdoors in me.

My parents both came from families that hunted deer and pheasants, so I took my gun safety certification as soon as I was old enough. Looking back now, I realize that all of the time I spent hunting, was also important in shaping my deep interest in the outdoors, as well as giving me the perspective of the hunter when considering conservation topics.

Rows and rows of monotonous mono-cultured crops grew old and so I went west to Boulder Colorado to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. It was a hard time working full-time through school and taking a full class load, so I didn’t have many opportunities to volunteer monitoring birds or naturalist programs, but wish I’d had that extra experience today.

I’ll write soon and explain the process of getting that first field job, no matter what it is!