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Just starting your conservation tech career path? Our Early Career group is the best place to network, chat about your master's projects, and seek advice from your peers and those who have been down this path before! Join now to get to know community members and students from around the world!

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Research Associate

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is seeking a new Research Associate to join their Conservation Technology Lab team.

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Academia folks: what kind of tech training/exposure are you giving to your undergrads?

One of the things I've noticed in my work with some undergrads is that they're getting a pretty scattershot approach to learning about technology and its applications in...

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Pretty much all biostats classes in higher ed will be taught in R, you'd have to separately take a Python class. But even that would require the knowledge that you might need Python at all, which is not something I realized until far later in my career (in undergrad, it was what the computer science people took so how could it possibly be helpful for me yadda yadda). I say this too having been an undergrad right around when the big data revolution really took off, so I'm not sure what kind of curricular changes have been made following that. At my undergrad & Master's universities at least, there have not been any. One biostats course required for each, taught in R.

In terms of tech like hardware, ecology/conservation programs seem woefully under-focused on this. You can take a conservation class that might talk it about it for one lecture or a genetics class where you talk about eDNA, etc. but it doesn't seem as embedded into the overall curriculum as much as it should be. 

I of course am only speaking from my own experiences and those around me who have come from different universities. I know there are some universities doing it better, for example Andrew Schulz teaches a Conservation Tech class at Georgia Tech. Florida Tech has a Conservation Tech Master's program, as does Liverpool John Moore in the UK and Holland College in Canada. Pacific Union College also has a Conservation Tech concentration in their Bio department. 

There are also centres within universities that are focused on certain aspects of conservation tech - we have a bunch listed in the Conservation Tech Directory (you can filter by academia). 

I just had a conversation with a professor in my department who's had students doing RasPi-based camera traps as a project in a REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program, which seems really cool. But unfortunately it's only getting that exposure for a relatively small portion of the total undergraduate student body. 

 

The other thing I wonder is if the ways that students are growing up in their relationship with tech is changing how we need to teach things. This article really challenged some of the things I've found most aggravating in teaching students things in R or ArcGIS https://www.theverge.com/22684730/students-file-folder-directory-structure-education-gen-z

The title of that article is "File Not Found". That threw me off since I totally thought I hit a 404 and the article didn't exist anymore. It's super interesting though so don't get thrown off by the title.

Notable quote:
“Take their phones away and get ‘em on Windows 98.”

Also, that article makes me feel so oooooold....

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A Triphibian Surveillance Vehicle

Hey all!I am Ayush, a core team member of my school's Robotics Club (Center For Innovation, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras). There is one project - The Triphibian - we are...

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Looking for folks to do resume/CV reviews

Hi--I'm in the middle of my job hunt, and would love to have folks to work with and give me feedback on my resume/CV, and hoped that there might be other people here on wildlabs...

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I really appreciate the positive feedback this has gotten, and I'll look to sending stuff around. In part I'm looking to work with other folks who are mid-job-hunt so that I can try to pay it forward a little by reviewing their resumes as they review mine. 

Hey David, I like the idea and would much like to exchange feedback. As an early career conservationist,  I am glad i saw this thread. 

I'm in the early stages of my marine conservation career and have also been applying for jobs. Being part of such a group would be such a great opportunity to give and receive good feedback.

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Conservation Tech Career Pathways - what do you want to know? 

Hi wildlabbers, I made a casual comment in my post in the friday check in thread...

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+ 1 on the above comment; new to wildLabs, and the exact title of this post is what got me here as I was looking for ways I can contribute to Biodiversity conservation. Excited for the series to come out 

Hi David.

We're interacting with a lot of conservation organizations, more in the area of environmental monitoring/restoration than wildlife. However in regards to you're questions, this is what we're seeing. Also please remember, it's more from a commercial point of a view than academic.

  • what sectors want R vs Python if you do programming/data science

It's probably best to know both. A lot of conservation organizations internally use R, but a lot of the tools that are coming out are python-focused. This is especially true with the machine learning tools.

  • how to best represent all the weird random skills we end up picking up doing our work on a resume/CV

I think it's better to keep a focused CV that clearly expresses what you're looking for or your specialty. Rather than listing all the random skills that you've picked up, I recommend setting up either a portfolio or website where you can talk about all those additional details. For field researchers deploying technology, you have to be extremely resourceful so it's best to highlight that in a blog/portfolio website where you can explain more about what led you to come up with that solution, how you came about it, and the outcome. This would be extremely interesting to someone doing further research on you in anticipation of hiring.

  • comparison of private sector / public service / ngo / academia as workplaces

I can't speak much for academia. From the NGO's we're talking to, the largest ones are kind of early in their conservation technology adoption. Nature Conservancy has a relatively mature conservation technology group that's well funded. Same for WWF. Other orgs we've talked to are more like dipping their toes in the water and often bring outside people to implement specific projects rather than maintaining their own internal resources. Smaller orgs either have no conservation tech departments or fledgling ones. I think many orgs are trying to determine if they need dedicated conservation tech resources and trying to define what that means to them. 

In private sector, if you have programming skills, you'd probably end up being a programmer. This is because software customization and improvement is a never ending task in commercial software. In most orgs, they'd likely expect python since it's more general purpose unless they explicitly ask for R. 

  • how to identify sectors where there's going to be a lot of demand

In terms of wildlife conservation and wildlife conservation technology, the major data collection tools seem to be camera traps, bioacoustic recorders, trackers, GIS, and increasingly drones. The data processing tools seem to be R, python, and familiar with emerging ML tools for data processing. 

The common thread in all of this is that ecologists are drowning in a deluge of data. So being proficient in managing, analyzing, and processing data, especially in building tools to increase efficiency and productivity is probably one of the more desirable skills. Of course expertise in a specific field is important, but ecology is looking more like it also requires general purpose IT/programming skills. 

Akiba

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