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Mira Sytsma

Wildlife ecologist, University of Washington

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You belong! Allow yourself to believe you deserve a seat at the table.

What do you do?

As a graduate student at the University of Washington I studied how terrestrial wildlife in Glacier Bay National Park respond to outdoor recreation and the recession of tidewater glaciers within the park. This involved using remote cameras, and conducting bird surveys, vegetation surveys, and small mammal live-trapping to monitor wildlife.

Why did you choose this field?

I worked as a research volunteer on an American pika study, where I was hiking in the backcountry of Montana daily and seeing some of the most amazing scenery, and it totally changed the path of my life. I am endlessly curious about animals and the natural world, and knew that working as a wildlife ecologist would allow me to try to answer some of the questions I have! It also allows me to work in some of the most breathtaking wild areas in the world!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I remember starting graduate school and seeing everyone around me doing a lot of coding, which I had never done before, and feeling like I would never be able to do that. It seemed like such a "guy thing" at first. I wish I could tell younger me to have confidence and that if I work hard I can do anything.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because I get to foster my own curiosity. My job is to ask questions, wonder, and learn.

Best advice for next generation?

You belong! Allow yourself to believe you deserve a seat at the table, and don't see that as being cocky or full of yourself, you have every right to be there. And don't let anyone make you feel small, everyone else started out right where you are and people who make you feel small are people you shouldn't surround yourself with.

Inspo quote / fun fact

The key to making really good hummus is using ice water, and chopping up the garlic and letting it sit in lemon juice for ~10 minutes to get rid of some of its bitterness!