This week, we were able to sit down and interview Katelyn Szura, who has her B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation and is currently working towards her Masters of Environmental Science at the University of Rhode Island! Katelyn has worked with both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Read on to learn more about the amazing field of conservation biology and how Katelyn got started!
Could you please tell us your name, title, and educational background?
Katelyn Szura, MS Environmental Science Graduate Student, University of Rhode Island. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Wildlife and Conservation Biology.
What do you do for work and how does it relate to STEM Principles?
I am currently a graduate student working towards earning a Master of Science degree in Biological and Environmental Science. I have previously worked as a research assistant at both the Environmental Protection Agency and US Fish and Wildlife Service. My passion is in studying all things relating to salt marsh ecology. The projects I work on are heavily science based and use research projects to answer questions about salt marsh systems. Within marsh systems, I study processes in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, how crabs affect marsh landscapes, what effects nutrient additions have on marsh ecosystem processes, and ways to restore these valuable habitats. A few of my favorite projects to date have been conducting bird surveys at sites all over Rhode Island, traveling to sites all along Long Island, NY to study the health of these marshes, and helping with a project to restore marsh grasses and elevation.
What is the most unique/enjoyable part of your job?
The most unique part of my job is that it is a nice mix of lab and field work and that I'm always learning something new and exciting. A lot of my field work is in the summer and the majority of that time is spent collecting data in various marshes. It can be long days, but nothing beats spending a summer day near the ocean and investigating the wildlife that I find. A few of my projects have even involved spending time handling and counting birds, crabs, and fish. I've always loved birds, but I learned to appreciate them even more when I got to handle many different species when carefully catching them in mist nets for measurements for a fall migration project. What's nice about field days is that they're always fun and no two days are the same. Some days I even get to go boating or kayaking! I really enjoy lab work too as a way to mix my days up and it's exciting to use samples from the field in the lab to help answer questions about different field sites. What I really enjoy the most, though, is that every day I get to work with a system that I absolutely love learning about and that my work contributes to helping protect and restore marshes.
How did you become interested in the job you have?
I became interested in the job I have after taking my mom's advice as an undergraduate student in college to initially take any courses that interested me to find out what career I wanted to pursue. I soon found myself taking classes about birds, plants, and conservation. I was learning to identify all types of wildlife and ways to conserve them and their habitats. I particularly fell in love with research when I went to a lecture and a scientist presented her work in which she helped study boat traffic in order to reduce collisions with whales during migration. Since that day, I was hooked! I wanted to make a difference too. Through my first post-graduate job I found out how much I loved marshes through my work which took me traveling to sites all throughout Rhode Island. I spent many a sunrise in those marshes and I gained an immense appreciation for their beauty and importance.
What advice would you give someone hoping to find a job in your profession?
My advice would be to gain as much hands on field experience as early and as often as you can, even if it's just volunteering on different projects. It's a great way to gain knowledge about a wide variety of topics within the field and also a fun way to meet people and learn from others in the same profession. I learned so much through volunteer projects and whether it was removing invasive plant species or helping to tag horseshoe crabs so their movements could be tracked. I left each volunteer opportunity with a new appreciation for that particular project. These experiences also helped me to discover which research interested me the most. In addition, when applying for jobs my experience, and variety of experience, with field work was something that helped my resume stand apart.
If someone wanted to learn more about the type of work you do, where can they learn more?
I think a great resource would be to browse the University of Rhode Island's College of the Environment and Life Sciences home page. It has a lot of information about different professors and projects going on at the university. It could be a great way to learn about possible graduate projects or just a way to learn more about different types of biological and ecological research in general.
If you would like to send Katelyn an email about her job or if you have any questions for her, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.