Postdoctoral Scholar, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Clemson University
"My undergraduate study was extremely useful. I have encountered many other graduate students and professionals in conservation biology who do not have any academic background in policy or law. In a field as integrative and interdisciplinary as fisheries and wildlife biology, I feel that I am at a huge advantage in having a solid understanding of the economic, legal, and governance aspects of conservation in addition to its scientific components.
As an undergraduate, I shifted from a pre-veterinary focus dominated by broad chemistry, biology, and physics courses to a more organismic track. My happiest years in ESPP came at the end of my tenure, when I had begun to explore the small and focused classes in ESPP, OEB, EPS, etc. I wish I had identified earlier that my interests were in species and ecosystem conservation rather than veterinary medicine, because I would have been able to tailor my education more directly to my career. In my Master's and PhD studies, I have never been as impressed with the classes I've taken as I was with some of my ESPP classes.
The greatest strength of ESPP is its flexibility. I would advise current students to take advantage of the freedom built into the concentration and to strengthen themselves by focusing on areas that don't necessarily reflect their intended careers. Environmental challenges are best met using a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of the issues, and ESPP is the perfect forum for gaining this sort of background, but it doesn't happen automatically. As a scientist, I feel that the most valuable part of my training was probably my exposure to policy, and I often notice that environmental policymakers lack scientific background and vice versa. The best way to prepare for a conservation career within the framework of ESPP is, I think, to step outside your comfort zone as a student and explore new concepts and disciplines as much as possible."
- Class of '05