My Degree: Conservation Biology (Future)

When I started this series, I thought these posts would be at least somewhat consecutive.

First, I wrote about how I got into my degree in my post My Degree: Conservation Biology (Past) published nearly a year ago. I also covered my high school classes, undergraduate development and first job in my field at the Arizona Game and Fish Department last summer.

Shortly after that, I wrote about my (then) current course in the post My Degree: Conservation Biology (Future), covering the first term of my degree and early stages of my dissertation and promising “an upcoming “Future” post of this sort” soon…

Obviously, it hasn’t happened since but by God, it’s happening now.

First, I’ll give a quick update on how the rest of my degree went. In the second term, university revolved around the South Africa trip in mid-April and trying to meet deadlines before then and wrap up assignments after. This left very little time for my dissertation so once third term came, I was under a lot of pressure. Although my supervisor was great with general practical advise, fisheries wasn’t her forte and was unable to give me much direction on my content. My dissertation was supposed to be in collaboration with the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (I.F.C.A.) but my contact there was extremely slow at getting back to me (like, at least three weeks per e-mail) as she was always on field work. I was quite frustrated that my supervisor and I.F.C.A. contact both committed to this under those circumstances. But, as they say in Spain, tu mismo (basically “whatever” but worse).

I won’t lie, I was under a lot of stress, I was going absolutely mad. The stress had me in manic tears when I handed my dissertation in and holed up in my room for days after. Although finishing my degree should have been a happy occasion, I felt completely shitty about my work and felt all this time, money and energy spent coming to do my degree abroad was for naught.

Anyway, the results are officially in your girl just went and got a motherfucking 2:1 anyway! I got my dissertation mark a few weeks ago and did the math then but it was just confirmed today. I didn’t get an amazing mark on my dissertation, but thank goodness for my other modules I did well in.

Now the million dollar question: what now?

Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest.

Ever since my year abroad, I wanted to find some way to live in the U.K. A Master’s degree was the somewhat obvious next choice: it cost as much to do one here as in the U.S. and getting a higher degree from the U.K. might give me a leg up in the U.K. job market upon graduation, right?

Wrong. Only a limited list of companies can offer working visas and even then, you have to be an amazing candidate for H.R. to go through the faff of hiring a foreigner. It’s bullshit that I have lived here for two (non-consecutive) years and have a graduate degree from a U.K. university but I still can’t stay. Many countries, including the U.S., have visa schemes for recent graduates, but no such thing exists here.

That being said, I have all but given up trying to stay in the U.K. and am just trying to enjoy my time left with friends before I go back in mid-December.

Upon my return home state side, I will look to start my career in the U.S. I’ll probably first move somewhere of my choosing, then try to sort a job (I strongly prefer something in my degree, but wouldn’t mind something interim). I am prioritizing living somewhere I want for several reasons: first, it’s bad enough I can’t live in Brighton anymore. This little city means so much to me and my heart is broken leaving. I know what I love about Brighton and will try to find that in a U.S. city as best I can. Following that, I would rather be at a job I’m “meh” about in a place I really enjoy (like right now) than be at a high-paying job somewhere I don’t really like. In this day and age, it’s easy to forget there is so much more to life than your job and I want to live in a place that makes me excited get out of the house and explore. With that, I’m thinking of moving to the east coast, either New York (city), Boston or Washington, D.C. At the moment, this is the order of my preference, but I will do a little bit of poking around with jobs and cost of living to see where the best trade-off lies.

I may not know exactly what job I want to do or where I want to go, but at least that means I’m flexible. Here are some requirements of jobs I’m looking for:

  • Full-time
  • Entry-level
  • Paid and paid reasonably well, I understand I will be going in at entry-level, but didn’t get a Master’s degree to be paid $10 an hour)
  • Some outdoor component preferred
  • Some animal interaction preferred
  • Some community engagement preferred
  • No ecology consulting jobs, I would literally rather take a cheese grater to my forehead than be chained to a desk

Here are some specific job titles and descriptions I’ve found online that really interest me just so you get a better idea of what I’m qualified for and interested in:

  • Fish and Wildlife Scientific Aide @ Department of Fish and Wildlife (California):  Collects recreational fishery data and biological samples, collects fish lengths, weights and other biological data as needed, performs data entry, reviews, edits and submits data.
  • Youth Initiatives Coordinator @ American Museum of Natural History (New York): Experience in coordinating programs, a strong background in science, and experience engaging in science topics with middle or high school youth… day-to-day management of several youth programs… ensuring that the materials, paperwork and classrooms are set-up and that the teaching staff has what it needs to implement the program… handling youth applications, enrollment forms and other related paperwork.
  • Program Assistant, Conservation Operations @ Bronx Zoo (New York): Assist with the administration of the Conservation Operations team… provide administrative support to the Senior Vice President of Field Conservation by assisting with reports, travel planning, reading scientific publications, etc.
  • Science Program Research and Analysis Intern @ WWF (Washington, D.C.): Demonstrate applied research skills and contribute to scientific research analysis and translation investigating environmental and human health impacts of protein production… conduct natural and social scientific research… support science leads in conducting literature reviews, managing and visualizing data and scientific information, supporting statistical analysis of datasets, and supporting the development of peer reviewed publications.

You get the idea.

So, that’s what’s next for me career-wise. There is so much opportunity out there it’s overwhelming, but I have to stay humble and remember there is also a lot of other brilliant newly graduated conservationists out there. I hope I can find a position I’m excited for in a new, interesting place to start my journey into the real world.

Photo by Victoria Alexander.

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