The charm of becoming a wildlife biologist is that there is so much room to grow. And if you are willing to evolve you can reach lofty heights.
While it's not the easiest path on the planet, you will have multiple hurdles standing in your way, as well as the physical aspects that play a role in this career. If you are aware of all of that, willing to over come them, then it is definitely possible to make a career of it. And there is no doubt that it can be a fulfilling job for the right person.
If you are just starting out make sure that you gain experience with:
- compass work
- tree canopy height
- tree canopy cover estimation
- Understanding topo maps is the most important (imo) as is the ability to follow different protocols.
And while these are not crucial wildlife oriented skills, not in the same manner as the ones I just mentioned, they are important:
- hiking in rough terrain
- If you have or can acquire backpacking and unique hiking type experiences recreationally it can really help you get your foot in the door.
I want to look at the different skills a little bit more and hopefully shine some light on areas that you may find interesting.
This is what everything comes down to. Are you dedicated?
- Show initiative early.
- Any type of effort/motion forwards regardless of the specific experience shows how intense your devotion is.
- This is a difficult field with a high dropout rate; show people you are serious.
- Think hard and decisively about how to stand out on paper.
- Over time you can paint a picture of your personality, intelligence, passion, and competency and make them your strongest attributes.
There are some universal skills as well as path-specific investments. Whether it's birds, mammals, fish, herpetofauna, habitat restoration, wetland based work et cetra.
Here are some areas to look at:
Lots of jobs and a lot of wildlife tech positions are out of reach without general knowledge and experience.
An important thing to note is that it is very easy to get pigeon holed in this type of work because of it's relevance and the difficulties of lining up preferred seasonal jobs back to back.
- GIS- A rapidly developing field with high demand and universal applications to natural science fields.
- Wilderness Medicine-a Wilderness First Responder certification is an important supplementary skill.
- If Wilderness First Responder is too tall on an order, Wilderness First Aid is just as good in most circumstances.
- 4x4 and ATV operation and maintenance
- General outdoor skills in remote settings, extreme environments, and rough terrain.
- Data entry, analysis, examples of technical writing.
- Displayed skill and adaptability to different types of survey technologies. Some examples of what I mean are:
- water quality testing
- acoustic tech for bats
- radio telemetry
- mist netting
- firearm safety and operation.
- Handling of wildlife
- You can approach this by volunteering at rehabilitation clinics, there are plenty of them around the country.
- Working at night is a skill in and of itself, and if you are comfortable in this situation you can also open a few doors.
- If you will be working around any larger body of water or river, boat experience is a good skill to have. Here are some aspects to focus on:
- Outboard motor operation
- General oar/rowing experience.
- Boating license when necessary
- Complimentary to this would be a Swift Water Rescue Certification, this is similar to Wilderness First Responder.
- Use of spotting scopes and binoculars for bird related work.
- It's pretty easy to find low paying or volunteer work to get some bird experience.
- Vegetation sampling, habitat delineation/surveying, and/or plant identification in the respective ecosystem of interest.
- Travel or take specific coursework of relevance.
- The basic question here is show diversity, tolerance, and adaptive knowledge bases.
- Ornithology is a big employment field within wildlife biology and many volunteer positions are available everywhere.
From what I have seen networking with advisors and teachers has gotten pretty much all of my classmates their first job.