Navigating a Successful Career Path as a Wildlife Professional


Organizer: Lara Pacifici, North Carolina State University

Whether you’re a current student, a recent graduate, or an early career professional, navigating the wildlife profession can be a daunting task. Common questions of students and new professionals include: What kinds of jobs should I be applying for? What resources exist to help secure those jobs? How should I develop and direct my career path? How do I develop a sense of belonging in my career? What’s the best way to network in an increasingly digital world? During this symposium, attendees will gain insight into these questions and more. Established wildlife and career professionals will cover topics including jobs in different sectors, career resources available through TWS, being an LGBTQ wildlife professional, climbing the career ladder, and how to manage an online presence and maximize social media networking. The knowledge and advice gained during this session will enable young professionals to confidently forge their path in the wildlife profession. 

Where Should I Go? Career Options in Wildlife
Quentin Hays
Becoming a professional wildlife biologist can seem like a distant dream to many aspiring students, but the road to professional status begins early and there are many important decisions to be made along the way. Should you make the jump to graduate school fresh off a bachelor’s degree? Perhaps an internship program with a government agency or a few seasons as a field biologist are better choices? Is a career as an academic or leaving a lasting conservation legacy important to you? Or maybe financial considerations, accountability, and diversity of work are driving factors? These questions, in one form or another, must all be asked and answered along the road to becoming a professional wildlifer. During this process, you must evaluate each choice in the context of maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses, while also considering ultimate happiness and satisfaction in your chosen career. Traditionally, professional wildlife ecologists work in one of four sectors: government or the public sector, consulting or the private sector, non-governmental organizations or conservation, or in academia conducting research or teaching. Within each of these sectors are various fields of specialization that may align with particular personal or career goals while also meshing with individual strengths; each career category offers benefits and drawbacks. Determining what motivates you as an aspiring wildlifer while also recognizing how to maximize your strengths is of critical importance during the journey to becoming a professional. This presentation will provide overviews of the four primary professional sectors within wildlife, including the good and bad of each. Strategies for achieving a career in each sector will be discussed, including how to identify personal strengths and overcome weaknesses, and how to eventually become a happy and well-rounded wildlife professional.
TWS Professional Development Programs and Resources
Jamila Blake
The Wildlife Society (TWS) is a professional society founded in 1937 with the mission to inspire, empower, and enable wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation. The Wildlife Society is proud to be able to support the development and advancement of wildlife professionals throughout their careers. The Wildlife Society has consistently been committed to the ongoing career development of wildlife professionals through a wide variety of programs, resources and activities that help TWS members expand their knowledge, stay up-to-date on new developments in wildlife research, management, and conservation, and advance in their careers. There are a number of ways to get involved, expand your network, and gain experience through The Wildlife Society. The Wildlife Society’s professional development programs and resources include the Wildlife Biologist Certification Program (Associate and Certified Wildlife Biologist® designations and the Professional Development Certificate), Leadership Institute (leadership training for early-career professionals), U.S. Forest Service Native American Research Assistantship Program, continuing education opportunities, as well as a number of other professional development offerings. The Next Generation section of specifically provides a number of resources developed to support current students, recent graduates, and early career professionals. The Wildlife Society also has internship opportunities with multiple program areas, workshops and trainings, along with awards, member recognition, and grants and scholarships to support professional development, continuing education, and career advancement. Whether you are seeking to gain a better understanding of careers in the wildlife field, are interested in joining a working group with your peers, or are looking for an in-person or online educational opportunity, The Wildlife Society has resources and guidance available to help you on your path.
LGBTQ+ Wildlifers Out in the Field
Liz Hillard
There are a number of challenges that exist for students and early career professionals to find success in the wildlife profession; an unwelcoming, unsafe, and/or discriminatory environment for LGBTQ+ wildlifers should not be one of those challenges. The good news is natural resource agencies and organizations, including The Wildlife Society (TWS), are recognizing the need and benefits of having a diverse and supportive professional environment. TWS’s Out in The Field (OiTF) Initiative was started in 2019 to increase visibility and support for LGBTQ+ wildlifers. Thus far, OiTF has created opportunities for mentorship, networking, and collaboration with allies to foster a more inclusive culture where diversity of all kinds is clearly embraced. While we all have unique experiences navigating our careers, as a member of the OiTF organizing committee and an early career professional, my talk will a) focus on the challenges and opportunities I’ve faced throughout my career as an LGBTQ+ wildlifer, b) highlight the diversity of the LGBTQ+ experience in approaching our careers and fieldwork, and c) provide resources that may be helpful to both students and professionals. By increasing the visibility of and identifying ways to support LGBTQ+ wildlifers, we can build a welcoming and safe community for LGBTQ+ wildlifers and enable ALL wildlifers to be part of the wildlife profession and contribute to the future sustainability of our wildlife resources.
Working Your Way Up with a Bachelor’s Degree
Luke Lolies
In the wildlife career path today, students and young professionals often wonder what level of education is required to land a biologist position. Is a bachelor’s degree enough? In a brutally competitive field, how do you stand out to an employer? It can be overwhelming when you hear about many positions receiving 100+ applications for one job. Often, the default in today’s society is more education equals better opportunity. As a graduate from North Carolina State University in 2017 I have climbed the ladder to a permanent wildlife biologist position with the USFWS. I am going to discuss my experience and opinion of navigating the profession with only a bachelor’s degree.
Navigating Scicomm and Social Media as a Young Professional
Murry Burgess
Navigating social media as a young professional is a balance between career-oriented and personal posting. It’s also important to learn how to share scientific research in ways the public can understand and appreciate. This presentation will guide the audience through general do’s and don’ts of posting on social media, professional networking through social media, and steps on building a science communication platform. This presentation is given by a young wildlife biologist who has successfully maintained social media platforms, engages in environmental education & science communication, and has a publishing contract for a children’s nature book series. The audience will take away the building blocks of developing a successful, scientific social media platform and beyond.

Location: Virtual Date: November 5, 2021 Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm