Getting Started as a Field Researcher
from Greensboro NC on
May 6, 2008
An interview with Mark MacAllister, the coordinator of
Field Trip Earth.
Questions and Answers
1. How did you begin to work in this field?
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
2. What advice can you give to a young person interested in
working with animals/enviornment?
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.
3. What has been your biggest challenge living in the field?
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
4. How can we help perserve animal enviornments?
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.
5. Do you have a "favorite" animal?
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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