After 12 years of formal education (13 if you count kindergarten) and four years of college, one would think I would be sick of school. However, I saw only two options: get a real job and become a real adult or keep going to school. Higher education seemed like the best plan! The only problem there was no clear road map telling me what to do after college. I wasn’t even sure if I should choose vet school or grad school, and if I chose grad school where should I go, what should I study, who should be my advisor, what if he was awful? At least when I was in high school there were those guidance counselors who provided cookie cutter information to all the upcoming seniors. The advice may not have been tailor made for me, but at least there was a clear next step the counselor picked a few good fit schools, I applied, got accepted, and the biggest problem was playing eenie-meenie-minie-mo to decide which school to attend. Unfortunately, all of the high school guidance counselors were busy the month I graduated college.So without very much clarity on what I wanted to ultimately do or which programs were the best at what, I applied to vet schools and grad schools around the country. My hatred for organic chemistry (and the fact that I refused to take Orgo II) caught up with me couldn’t get into vet school without Orgo II. I was accepted to most of the grad schools, but received that letter that said You are qualified, but without a project or advisor, no go. I was quickly losing hope and thought my days of not being an adult were catching up to me.
I received a happy call one day in May. We know you are interested in studying ecotoxicology. How about otter poop instead? Working with otters had not been my original intent (although, I am still not clear on what exactly my original intent was), but otters were cute and fuzzy, and I could tell people that I worked with otter poop a sure-fire way to stay away from becoming a respectable adult. I took the position, studied stress levels in river otters (via poop analysis), and received my masters in wildlife biology in May 2005. I think I really got lucky!
Contributed by Devon Rothschild, ESA Science Program Assistant