Wildlife Biology

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Wildlife Biology Re Lora

Postby Natalia » Mon Mar 07, 2005 2:56 pm

Hi Lora,

I am really grateful to you for sharing your experience. I think it is absolutely crucial to understand ALL pros and cons, especially for me when trying to make a life-changing decision, and your story sheds some light on the cons.

You brought up an excellent point about the research feedback and results. I, honestly, didn?t think about it from this angle. I think it is a good thing to keep in mind that chances are that one either won?t find anything interesting, or his/her findings will be flawed. However, as my marketing research teacher once said, no result is also a result. It probably won?t bring one a worldwide recognition, but, hey, people that do field biology are not expected to care about break-troughs and acknowledgment. I?m only theorizing though. I guess when someone works hard, doesn?t get much pay, and comfort of a warm and cozy office, at least he/she would want to be sure of doing the right thing. It must be a huge disappointment if turns out otherwise.

Lora thanks again for you input!

Wildlife Biology

Postby Sarah » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:08 pm

Life is short. It is the thrill of doing what you love that really counts. When you die, you cannot take the money with you.
Follow your heart in this career change. If you work on something you are passionate about, the rest will fall into place.
I am a marine biologist, postdoc, with little money, but living to the fullest every minute I get in the ocean. No regrets.

Wildlife Biology Re Carylsle

Postby Natalia » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:14 pm

Your point is well taken! It is naïve and unpractical to say that one doesn?t need all these money. I also hate hearing this kind ?I can live on minimum wage? things from people that never actually had no money to pay bills. As for myself, I?ve been to the both sides. I came to US about 6 years ago, and there have been times when I couldn?t afford to eat lunch, while working full time. This was no fun, and I wouldn?t want to go back to those times. On the other hand, after getting my degree and a good job, I could see myself being sucked into consuming all the luxury goods, and needing more and more money to get more and more useless things and silly entertainment. I guess it is a matter of finding the right balance, and as you rightly pointed out, it is not a bad idea to keep in touch with my current employer after (and if) I decide to switch. Thanks a lot for you advice.

Wildlife Biology

Postby Doug » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:28 pm

Googling "consbio" and "ecolog-L" will guide you to the mailing lists I mentioned before. A few other comments on things others have said in this thread.
1) One way to improve your marketability as a wildlife biologist is to understand at the outset that you almost MUST have good quantitative skills. An understanding of landscape-level ecology (e.g. GIS skills) are also very much in demand.
2) It's not necessary to undergo the 6-weeks-in-a-tent regimen to be a field wildlife biologist. Many field stations provide logistical support for research (e.g., Bodega Marine Labs, RMBL, many many others). Even most field stations tend to be in rural/remote areas, though.
3) I wouldn't pay for an Earthwatch experience. It would be much more practical to look for a field assistant job for a summer. Such a job is VERY useful for deciding whether you have the heart to do field work. I've known several REUs who have gone screaming to law school after a summer of 12-hour days sampling ponds and counting plankton samples!
4) For these field assistant jobs, go to your potential professors in Columbia and tell them your situation. You might quickly find yourself with a summer field asssistant position. Also, think of yourself as looking for an "environmental" career and use resources for that area. Sites like (I endorse none of these),, and I think you'll find extraordinarily useful.
5) Money, again. While wildlife biology certainly won't pay as much as most lab jobs (because there's no profit motive), those in the field find the lifestyle far more rewarding than a lab job. I don't think there would be any differences in pay in academia between a neurotransmitter researcher and a bison population-dynamics researcher.

This forum tends to be lab-centric (not always a bad thing), so I urge you to look at other resources I've mentioned. Good luck!

Wildlife Biology Re David

Postby Natalia » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:32 pm

Thank you so much for all the pointers, and for the reading recommendation. I got ?The Life of Mammals? by David Attenborough, and really enjoy reading it, although I can see how it is more of a recreational read. In search for information I was planning on going through some of the published researches, to both get an idea of the methodology that is being used, as well as topics of interest. Do you have in mind any publication that you think maybe useful for me in this respect?

I could probably start searching out the PHD students while I?ll be working on my Post-Bac. I asked the director of the Post-Bac program if he knows about any research project for which I could volunteer, but did not hear from him back. There is a list of PHD students in Columbia Ecology department, which is going to be very useful for me. :)

Thanks again! You are very helpful!

Wildlife Biology Re Doug

Postby Natalia » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:59 pm

These are all wonderful ideas! And, yes (!), I can say I have an analytical mindset and skills, since this is what I do for living now. I do statistical analyses of countrywide magazine distribution. We work with store level database of magazine purchases, which includes 150K stores with data for 600 magazines going back to 2002. So, I know a thing or two about collecting, managing, and interpreting data, as well as dealing with tedious tasks.
I will try and get a summer job, or a volunteer position before I quite my job.
Thank you so much!


Wildlife Biology Re David

Postby David » Mon Mar 07, 2005 5:34 pm

Hi Natalia
Since your knowledge is likley to be more detailed for mammals then I would recommend David McDonalds New Encyclopedia of Mammals which is a hefty but excellent tome daling with all of the approximate 4000 species. It discusses their behaviour, ecology and is excellently researched with contributions by many fantastic people (also look up David McDonalds WildCru group in Oxoford for links on what projects people do...and for that matter Tim Clutton-Brock in Cambridge...both groups have produced stellar research).
I would recommend reading general science magazines such as New Scientist/Scientific American which do a great job of distilling current research into easily understandable bits). They cover all sciences so just choose the bits that appeal. Similarly, the email alerting service (see sends out emails about the most interesting recent advances; many of which are in wildlife biology/zoology/behaviour/evolutionary biology.
Since your background is not biology, such approaches are good rather than my recommending text books or primary articles (i.e.research articles in journals). You will of course get up to speed when you start your course but the sources I mention are great and inspirational in the interim.
In that vein you should look through 'popular' science books in your local bookstore. The Wilson books I mentioned fall into that category. In many cases they are highly detailed and in fact are even recommended reading for 1st year undergraduates (e.g. The Diversity of Life Book). Such authors as Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, are all excellent and deal with zoology/evolutionary biology.
I am not sure of your interest. However, it is not expected that someone necessarily have a specific interest before starting a biology undergrad..merely that they "like" zoology/animals/animal behaviour. But if you enjoy thinking about animal behaviour then one notable text book is Behavioural Ecology by Krebs, John and Davies (first name?). (Behavioural Ecology is the behaviour of animals in relation to their environment). It is really a clear, well thought out text book that is a standard in the UK at least.
A previous suggestion above was learning such things as GIS. While it is a very useful tool I would suggest that between now and the start of your course you simply read widely and get a feel for the depth of the topic ahead. Don't extinguish the flame of passion by jumping in too quickly (unless such things interest you).
Find out what text books are on your proposed course and get them. Reading zoological text books is always a joy as their are about animals (but I could be biased here).

Get back to that post-bac program director and hassle him again for a contact. Persistence is to be admired. Even if you got some on-campus work which would not be such an upset to your family life. Many interesting questions in ecology are addressed in the lab with suitably small species (stickle back fish and Zebra fish birds are two notable 'model' organisms').

I have addressed your questions by thinking of how I would speak to a potential zoology student. But maybe when you said Wildlife Biologist you meant something slightly different? Maybe game conservation/species re-introductions or the like?

anyway, good luck


Wildlife Biology Re David

Postby Natalia » Mon Mar 07, 2005 7:11 pm

Thank you so very much! This information is priceless for me. Honestly I had very hard time try to get any information/advice on pursuing Wildlife Biology career path. So I am very happy with all the info and feedback that I got on this forum!

Your understanding of my interest is absolutely correct. My interest lies in zoology, as a science about the life of animals.

I really appreciate all the info and time! Thanks!!!


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