I'm getting questions bout how I did all these international field things. It's a fair question, conservation often makes it so you either don't get paid as an early-career practitioner OR you have to pay.

Which is a problem, if you, like I was, are broke. (cont'd)

So how did I do it? I read a lot of papers. I cold-emailed corresponding authors. I joined Twitter. I applied for scholarships. As a senior in university, I was lucky enough to get a Rotary Global grant to study in South Africa. One problem - funding covered one year.
So I chose an accelerated 14-month Masters course at the University of Cape Town that covered both classes and a full dissertation in a little over a year. I did my degree there, and it was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I never did. Then, I needed a job.
Which is a problem with little experience. I crammed in experience in R and QGIS (open sourced software) through Youtube and a give-em-Hell attitude. I taught myself video editing. I reached out to every contact I knew, and made friends with carnivore researchers at school.
Basically, I knew the field was competitive, so I made sure I built a strong skillset of extra useful stuff (self-taught...again, I was pretty much broke except for the scholarship), and used that as a win-win situation to gain experience in conservation projects.
I got my first job working on a leopard project in the Northern Cape of South Africa, as I was already in SA at the time. I traded a heck of a lot of mapping for experience in human-wildlife conflict mapping. I did grant writing. I came up with environmental education skits.
Then, I literally asked to volunteer on a project in Kenya to learn more about their Predator Compensation Fund, with a contact I networked with through (I kid you not), asking to use one of his photos for a Kickstarter video for an environmental video game I co-designed.
From there, I did several more placements, and then networked my way into my first major job, leading a human-wildlife conflict response and research team in Namibia, but my methodology never changed.
Rule 1: I was never going to pay for a field placement.
Rule 2: When I was building my career, no job was too boring or too difficult, even entering in data for literal eons.
Rule 3: I would give an added benefit to the project which would make them more likely to take me on.
This meant literally learning everything from Photoshop and IMovie to R and Python and GIS and staying up late nights reading lit reviews on carnivore ecology until my eyes felt like they were going to implode.

I never paid for any of that. I couldn't afford it. But I needed it.
A good example of my methodology at work - I wanted to get experience in Asia after a lot of time in Africa, I met a contact who works in Nepal. In exchange for room and board, I offered to teach GIS workshops to schoolkids. I got that experience.
NOW, there is an elephant in the room, which is, of course, plane tickets. Plane tickets are expensive. How did I pay for those?

In early days? Retail. Baristaing. Working in a library. Dogsitting. Food service. Sometimes several of those at once. And it was really, really hard.
I made a vision board of where I wanted to go, what I wanted to learn to do, what I wanted to become. And after double shifts, I'd literally stay up and stare at it, and tell myself that I would get there. I'd count out how long it'd take me to get to Kenya, or Namibia.
I'm not saying this is the right or the most sustainable approach for everyone. I have no dependents, and I was/am young and unattached. But it worked for me, and I hope it gives a little hope that, yeah, the deck IS stacked in favor of those with money and existing connections.
If you want it enough, that door isn't closed. You can find a way. But it might be an unblazed trail.

Learn everything you can (even skills that are not 'traditional' conservation skills), think outside the box, get comfortable with networking. Remember WHY you're doing this.
You do it by, in the immortal works of @Lin_Manuel

🎶 Working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter
By being a self-starter 🎶

I believe in you.

You can follow @fleurygs.
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