Some people know from an early age what career they will choose. Others take their time to decide and sometimes come upon a career by chance. We asked AquaRAP team members how and why they became scientists. Some highlights of those conversations follow:
|Dr. Leeanne Alonso taking |
notes from invertebrate
Director of CI's Rapid Assessment Program
"As a kid, I liked being outside collecting things and always thought I'd work with wildlife. I started out thinking of studying lions but when I was in school I took a class in entomology (study of insects) which was fascinating. The more I volunteered on research projects that took me out to the field I was amazed to find how little we still know about living creatures – it's the chance to see these fantastic environments and a desire to keep learning that keeps me in this field."
Water quality/limnology team leader
"All I knew from a young age was that I wanted to be a game ranger (park ranger). When I asked how I could become a game ranger I was told I'd have to get a college degree in zoology and botany. So I showed up at university the first day of registration unannounced and said, 'I want to be a game ranger,' They signed me up for bachelor's degree in zoology and botany with a semester of physics, chemistry, botany, and zoology. Eventually I became a botanist specializing in invasive aquatic plants. I'm being paid to have fun and still get to be outdoors with nature."
Water quality/limnology team member
"I grew up in a beautiful outdoors environment in Zambia and studied zoology and botany with the aim of becoming an ornithologist (bird specialist), but there were no jobs available after I graduated. I still love birds but ended up specializing in plankton ecology, despite no formal training in limnology. I'm very committed to my work. My daughters say if being a zoologist involves such long hours and so much hard work they don't want to do it – but I love it. For the past 10 years I've been collecting data from same site. In today's world of science, everyone wants results yesterday, cheaply, but when you look at the environment down the road, it's consistent, long-term results that matter. They tell you the real picture of what's happening."
Ben van der Waal
Fish team member
"I grew up in Holland. When I was 4 years old, my uncle bought me a fishing rod as a birthday present, so every chance I had, I was out fishing. My mother had to call the police looking for me when I didn't turn up for supper. I was given the freedom to express myself. My parents weren't directly interested in my pursuits but they never discouraged me. My father didn't even fish but he went with me and my two brothers to fish anyway. I think science was a natural course of study for me. It occupies your whole self. You are learning all the time. After spending so much time in Africa I've grown to respect local people's knowledge and am now interested in ethnobiology. When I'm out in the bush I feel that I am doing something that can help people manage and understand their ecosystems better."
Graduate, University of Botswana
"Even as I grew up I always had science interests – it's been my best subject. Biology is very challenging field. I was so nervous about coming to the field, but now I'm getting used to being in the wild. Now that I'm in the field I see what my country has in terms of natural resources. Having seen what the country has to offer has increased my interest in conservation."
– Lani Asato
IN DEPTH: Learn more about work in conservation.