Scientific Discipline/Field: I think conservation biology covers it. I’ve floated around in a lot of wildlife jobs. My focus in school is ecological restoration and plant ecology, and my thesis is on prescribed fire.
Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): L, Q
What does your job involve?
Right now, I’m working on a master’s degree, so I just have a part-time job. I work at a city park, where I’m kind of an all-purpose employee. I answer questions visitors have, help design activities for kids, and help with monitoring and maintenance around the park. It is not an exciting job.
How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
Honestly, I don’t think it requires anything above a high-school diploma, but my previous experience doing wildlife surveys and TA-ing dendrology certainly helped. Though I’ve taken a lot of biology classes, my only actual degrees are a B.A. in English and a graduate certificate in GIS. I look awful on paper. But I have tons of experience doing wildlife and plant surveys.
Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
When I left my last job, I wasn’t really leaving the job; I was leaving the region. The Florida panhandle is ecologically fascinating, especially if you study salamanders, but culturally so conservative. I went back to school for ecological restoration rather than wildlife conservation because it seemed there would be more jobs near urban areas. I will be reluctant to look for jobs out in the boonies when I finish grad school, because I’m just tired of dealing with the culture.
Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
I haven’t been 100% out to everyone I’ve worked with, because of the areas I worked. But I was always out to the folks I saw outside of work, and I assume a lot of others figured it out. Reactions were mostly shrugs. A few wanted to talk about it because I was the first queer person they’d met, and one or two tried awkwardly to bond with me by talking about issues. I appreciated the effort.
Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?
I had a cousin who was gay, and my (straight) sister and I thought that was incredibly cool. She got out of having to deal with boyfriends by having a girlfriend instead! What a clever solution! As for STEM: My parents had only finished high school, but they were very intelligent and interested in the natural world. They had just moved to a little off-the-grid farm in the woods in West Virginia when I was born, and they were still learning about their surroundings when I was little, and I learned along with them. My first book was a field guide to birds. They both showed me that you keep learning new things as an adult; it wasn’t just for school. My dad was very good at picking up information and new skills from books. I’d love to see what he could’ve done with the Internet. My mom went to nursing school after he died — she graduated the same year I graduated high school. So it didn’t seem strange to me to start grad school after ten years out of college.
What are your plans for the future?
Finish my degree and go to work in ecological restoration. I’d like to work for a government agency or a nonprofit, doing restoration projects. If it gives me a chance to play around with maps and/or fire, all the better.