In June, I graduated from the University of California Davis with a B.S. in
Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity. I just want to express that even in
our own countries, it is hard to find work in conservation, or even ecology
in general. No one I know in my major has a job lined up in our field
yet--not even an interview. I did always dream of working in the tropics
and doing conservation, but I don't have the resources to do unpaid work. I
have been applying to conservation jobs in the United States, but it is
really hard to get into this field, even with years of experience in labs
and doing field work. I've been keeping up with this post and, honestly, it
is very disheartening. I had hoped to hear some of the paths that people
started at my age and how they had resulted in a career. This hasn't been
the case, though.

Many of the other graduates I know need paid work. We are starting to want
to settle for jobs other than the ones we dreamed of. Many of us feel
undervalued as we have done unpaid work our entire undergraduate career on
top of working a normal job to pay our rent and thought that once we had a
degree, we would be paid for our services. We know that there are a lot of
people out there willing to work for free (we were those people because as
an undergraduate you don't have many options), but what message does that
send to future ecologists holding a bachelors, masters, or doctorate? It
tells us that our work is not worth paying for, therefore, it is
unimportant. If we can't make a living out of our dream, we will have to
stop following it. If people hear there is little chance of being able to
support yourself as a conservationist, how many future conservationists do
you think we will have? I'm not in this for the money, no one I know is,
but we have to make something to be able to continue working in this field
we love.

If you do have success stories in ecology, in making a career out of it,
please do share. It gives those of us just starting out a little hope

-Asia Jones

On Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 8:14 AM, Jason Hernandez <> wrote:

> Malcolm McCallum's reply was certainly thorough. But in response to his
> initial question, what do you mean by success, I should clarify. In my OP,
> I referred to unpaid, or even pay-to-play internships and positions in the
> tropics. What I meant by success, in that context, was: moving on from
> unpaid to paid, but still working in the tropics.
> We have examples like Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas, who made entire
> careers out of primatology research and conservation. They were backed by
> the Leakey Institute, and appeared to have been set on that path right from
> the time they were graduate students. Conversely, we have countless eager
> young people who would like to do something like that, but cannot break the
> barrier of unpaid work, so they end up "settling" (for lack of a better
> term) for conservation careers in their own countries. "Mitigating"
> wetlands for a strip mall developer can be a viable career; but would it be
> a satisfying one for someone who dreamed of saving rainforests?
> I appreciated the analysis from the Ecuador nonprofit. I knew immediately
> what organization that was, because I did one of those internships with
> them under their prior management. It was just as the new manager said: I
> paid to goof off in the forest and do a lackluster project. I appreciated
> his detailed story of how he got where he was. I also appreciated his
> candor in admitting that privilege was a factor.
> I am 45 years old. In the course of my adult life, I have switched careers
> several times, usually by necessity. Sometimes the reasons are clear and I
> can see my fault in them; other times, I still do not understand what
> happened. At this point, at 45 with an M.S., I have accepted that an
> academic or research career is not open to me. At this point, my goal is to
> get together enough resources to spend my retirement years in the tropics,
> doing ecology research in a small way that someone without an institutional
> lab can do. But I know that there are young people in school right now with
> the same dream I once had, and I posted that OP largely on their behalf.
> Thank you to everyone who replied.
> Jason Hernandez
> East Carolina alumnus

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