An Interview with Bethany Harvey

Current Job: Environmental Educator & Grad StudentDSCN0479

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.

Country: USA

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): L, Q

Website:

overlookednature.com

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.

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An Interview with Scott James Davidson

Current Job: PhD student at the University of SheffieldScott

Scientific Discipline/Field: Ecology/Biogeochemistry

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G

What does your job involve?

I’m a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Sheffield looking into the role of vegetation in methane fluxes across Arctic tundra in Alaska. The ultimate goal of my PhD is understanding the role vegetation plays in influencing methane emissions and using a combination of hyperspectral data and multispectral imagery to upscale methane emissions from the plot scale to the landscape scale.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

After mistakenly thinking I could be a journalist and doing a year of English/Politics at university, I completed MA (Hons) Geography at the University of Dundee and an MSc Polar and Alpine Change at the University of Sheffield. This career pathway has included field work on debris covered glaciers in the Italian Alps, working in the Scottish uplands and across Svalbard. I rather enjoy fieldwork in far off places – although I am a little accident prone…

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

No, I don’t think being part of the LGBT community has affected my career decisions. I’m very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family and friend network, so although the thought of coming out was an extremely stressful process internally, the reality of it all meant it was pretty smooth.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

In the postgraduate stages of my career, I have always been open about who I am. My colleagues are completely accepting of my sexuality. I do get questions or queries from a few (all with good intentions) and I’m often asked for my opinion on sexuality matters that arise in the media etc. but over all I’ve had no bad experiences from colleagues.

Due to undertaking a lot of fieldwork, you do meet people from around the world and I have occasionally had to deal with comments that are less than polite but at 25 years old, I have finally started to use the mantra ‘water off a ducks back’ and not take things too much too heart. It took me 7 or so years to get used to it, so I don’t mind others taking a little longer – as long as the comments are not homophobic and/or offensive.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

Role models… yes, but they weren’t necessarily LGBT. I was completely motivated by the work of Gavin Maxwell and Sir Peter Scott when I was wee and their passion for the natural world was an incredible inspiration for me. During my school years, I was told a career in biology wasn’t for me so I put it on the back burner. I’m glad I found by way back to what I love.

What are your plans for the future?

Finish the PhD and potentially continue on in academia. I get a real kick out of research but I also really enjoy the teaching side of things. I do have a favourite saying which is ‘It is no will-o-the-wisp I have followed here’ – I like to just take my own path and see what happens.

Anything else you’d like to add?

You can follow me on Twitter – @scootjd

An Interview with Alex Bond

alexbondCurrent Job: Senior Conservation Scientist, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Scientific Discipline/Field:  Ecology & Conservation Biology

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G

Websitelabandfield.wordpress.com / alexanderbond.org

What does your job involve?

I do research to support conservation efforts in the UK Overseas Territories, and build capacity with local partners.  Right now, this means supporting our efforts on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. Most of my work involved demographic modelling, and in many cases, getting a baseline monitoring programme off the ground.  Our projects at the moment are centred around the effects of mice on Gough Island, and understanding the causes of population declines in albatrosses and penguins.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I’m originally from Canada, and did an undergrad degree in biology at Mount Allison, a M.Sc. at the University of New Brunswick, and a Ph.D. at Memorial University of Newfoundland, all involving questions of avian conservation and ecology.  Then I spent 3 years as a postdoc at the University of Saskatchewan and Environment Canada before jumping the pond to the UK.  Most of my background involved the application of stable isotopes to ecological questions (particularly the effects of mercury on wild birds).

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Yes.  When I was looking for work, my partner and I decided early on that the US was off the list, and that limited the jobs I could apply for (particularly if we wanted to stay in North America).  On the whole, Canada is pretty accepting (even 10 years ago), so it didn’t play a role in deciding where to go to grad school.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

I’ve had good experiences from colleagues.  I was rather apprehensive about coming out to colleagues during my M.Sc. because I was still terrified of the possible reactions, but I can’t think of anyone reacting negatively, to be honest.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

I don’t think so.  There weren’t that many visible LGBT scientists visible when I was going through university, but I’ve managed to connect with quite a few over Twitter, which has been quite nice.  One of the challenges of being an LGBT scientist in Canada is that many of the larger US organizations (like NOGLSTP, which does fantastic work) operates in such a different social and legal environment than exists in Canada.  We’ve had marriage and largely equal rights for the last 10+ years, so the challenges we face in Canada differ from those of our colleagues south of the border.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m in a permanent position, so I’d like to leverage that to the advantage of others by being a visibly out scientist.  It would also be great to finally meet some of my out colleagues in the UK in person one of these days, and think about what we can do to support each other, as well as younger LGBT scientists.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m on Twitter – @thelabandfield