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Home > Interviews > Getting Started as a Field Researcher

Getting Started as a Field Researcher

Submitted by Borland from Greensboro NC on May 6, 2008

An interview with Mark MacAllister, the coordinator of Field Trip Earth.

Questions and Answers

Question #1.
1. How did you begin to work in this field?
Answer:
After graduate school, where I studied environmental law, I went to work for a public-interest organization in Utah that specialized in protecting wilderness lands within the state's forests and deserts. I did this for about five years. While I was working there, I learned a lot about wildlife, and also learned that, in many ways, the best way to protect land is to work to protect the species on that land.

I've now been working at the NC Zoo for about eight years, and in that time have learned about the many different ways we can conserve wild animals. A lot of my work is involves technology, especially telemetry and mapping.

Question #2.
2. What advice can you give to a young person interested in working with animals/enviornment?
Answer:
My advice school-wise would be, of course, to study biology, zoology, veterinary science, and that sort of thing. Studying wildlife law is another good idea. Most of all, though, I would recommend that students read a lot of environmental history. It's important to know how we got to the situation we're in regarding endangered species: what did we do to make polar bears endangered, for example. Once we have a good idea of our past mistakes, it will be easier to fix them, I think.

Question #3.
3. What has been your biggest challenge living in the field?
Answer:
The hardest part for me is being away from my family. Even though I am gone for three weeks at the most at any one time, I really miss my wife and children. That's just a function of traveling, though.

Something else that can be hard is getting used to the pace of living in other countries. In the U.S., generally speaking, people move really fast and everything feels kind of hurried. In other countries, though, the pace is much slower--and sometime that pace can feel really slow, and one starts to feel like he will never accomplish anything.

Question #4.
4. How can we help perserve animal enviornments?
Answer:
There's really a basic change we all need to make. We need to stop demanding so much in the way of material goods, and we need to stop wasting what we have. It's really not complicated. If people would ask themselves a simple question each time they prepared to do something, I think we could limit our consumption and waste. That question is this: "Is it really important for me to do this act or acquire this thing?"

In short, if more people thought before acting, we would surely have less waste and less consumption. And, less waste and consumption means better conditions for every living thing we share the planet with.

Question #5.
5. Do you have a "favorite" animal?
Answer:
Absolutely--I am a huge fan of wolves, and red wolves in particular. I am interested in the way they socialize in packs and in the way they hunt and occupy territories. I also like coyotes and foxes.

My favorite domestic animals are cats. I have shared my house with a cat ever since I was a child, and I expect I'll always have at least one to keep me company for the rest of my life.


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