University of British Columbia
And - Graduate Student
Work hard. Believe in yourself.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a wildlife veterinarian. As a veterinarian, I am concerned with the health and wellbeing of all life, but my training, experience, and focus is concerned mostly with wild animals. The wildlife veterinary field is broad, and I have mostly been drawn to the field of “conservation medicine.” This is an interdisciplinary field that takes into account the relationships between human, animal, and environmental when tackling health issues in wildlife. It can also be called “eco-health,” or “one health.”
I work on health interventions as well as in research. Interventions might include: removing a poaching snare from a wild animal; fitting a tracking collar for wildlife management; or translocating animals to a new area for genetic diversity or to establish a new population where the species has been previously extirpated. I also help smaller game ranches keep their animals healthy through consulting and medical interventions, and I undertake disease investigations and make recommendations when managers have noted an apparent problem.
In terms of research, I have undertaken small research projects for wildlife reserves, and supervised vet student honour's theses. This year I am beginning graduate school at the University of British Columbia to study the ecology of trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in wildlife, livestock, and people in and around wildlife-protected areas in Malawi.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I was always interested in social and environmental justice and I was obsessed with animals from a very young age. I worked on horse farms from the age of 12 and walked dogs for pocket money. In university I wanted a career in conservation and social justice but I didn’t know how to pursue that or what it might look like. Eventually, because I did well in science and had always loved working with animals, I decided to go to vet school. I figured that with a veterinary degree I would be employable, and that employment would give me the freedom financially to figure out how to then turn the degree into what I really wanted to do. This turned out to be the case. The wildlife field has been difficult to break into, because it takes a lot of education and experience, but then there are not many jobs and it is very underfunded. But I was always able to volunteer on interesting projects and take extra courses because I had the domestic animal medicine to pay my rent and fall back on during difficult times.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
The biggest roadblocks I have faced in wildlife medicine and conservation have been due to the intense competition and narcissism within the field. I have overcome and continue to work through these obstacles by fostering my own mental health and learning to find fulfillment in other areas of life. I have learned to avoid toxic work environments and dark personality traits and to say no to opportunities coming from those places. I have surrounded myself with brilliant, supportive, professional, and collaborative colleagues and friends. I am genuinely happy for their successes, as they are for mine. Because we are all working towards the same thing— a healthier and more equitable world.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
When I was in my fourth year of veterinary school (so my seventh year of university), I took a field elective called ‘ecosystems health’. Ecosystems health integrates biological, social, and health sciences with historical, conceptual, and ethical considerations. The field is oriented towards promoting health through preserving the function of ecosystems, which can include agricultural, urban, or wilderness areas. Although I was aware of ecosystems health as a field, the concept itself is rather nebulous. But this course introduced me to many professionals who had built successful individual careers in the field of ecosystems health, and this made it real to me. Their examples finally made it feel possible and real.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love the variety I experience day-to-day, the diversity of the field, and the many opportunities to continue learning and growing.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Work hard. Believe in yourself. Do not allow yourself to be limited by another person’s lack of imagination.
Be an advocate for reason, inquiry, creativity, education, cooperation, compassion, and open debate. This is never time wasted.