Current Job: Senior Conservation Scientist, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Scientific Discipline/Field: Ecology & Conservation Biology
Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G
What does your job involve?
I do research to support conservation efforts in the UK Overseas Territories, and build capacity with local partners. Right now, this means supporting our efforts on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. Most of my work involved demographic modelling, and in many cases, getting a baseline monitoring programme off the ground. Our projects at the moment are centred around the effects of mice on Gough Island, and understanding the causes of population declines in albatrosses and penguins.
How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
I’m originally from Canada, and did an undergrad degree in biology at Mount Allison, a M.Sc. at the University of New Brunswick, and a Ph.D. at Memorial University of Newfoundland, all involving questions of avian conservation and ecology. Then I spent 3 years as a postdoc at the University of Saskatchewan and Environment Canada before jumping the pond to the UK. Most of my background involved the application of stable isotopes to ecological questions (particularly the effects of mercury on wild birds).
Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
Yes. When I was looking for work, my partner and I decided early on that the US was off the list, and that limited the jobs I could apply for (particularly if we wanted to stay in North America). On the whole, Canada is pretty accepting (even 10 years ago), so it didn’t play a role in deciding where to go to grad school.
Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
I’ve had good experiences from colleagues. I was rather apprehensive about coming out to colleagues during my M.Sc. because I was still terrified of the possible reactions, but I can’t think of anyone reacting negatively, to be honest.
Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?
I don’t think so. There weren’t that many visible LGBT scientists visible when I was going through university, but I’ve managed to connect with quite a few over Twitter, which has been quite nice. One of the challenges of being an LGBT scientist in Canada is that many of the larger US organizations (like NOGLSTP, which does fantastic work) operates in such a different social and legal environment than exists in Canada. We’ve had marriage and largely equal rights for the last 10+ years, so the challenges we face in Canada differ from those of our colleagues south of the border.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m in a permanent position, so I’d like to leverage that to the advantage of others by being a visibly out scientist. It would also be great to finally meet some of my out colleagues in the UK in person one of these days, and think about what we can do to support each other, as well as younger LGBT scientists.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m on Twitter – @thelabandfield