30 July 2021

Career tradeoffs and Transitions

Written by: Christi Kruse

When I started working in conservation during my undergrad, I only wanted to work outdoors. I enjoyed manual labor and exploring new places, so I conducted seasonal fieldwork for many years. It was an amazing way to spend my 20’s and I had the opportunity to work in alpine lakes, jungle streams, and desert wetlands.  After observing how conservation was conducted at various agencies, however, I decided that I wanted to have more influence in the process. I’ve pursued my goal by attending graduate school and now, as a DFP, I have my first opportunity to support the conservation decision-making process. I’m conducting a population analysis of threatened Central Valley Steelhead, which will inform water management decisions by providing information on the timing of migrations across the basin. Making the transition from field to computer work has been a big adjustment but I think it’s all a matter of trade-offs.

Leaving fieldwork and starting remote data analysis work has meant that I’m more isolated but I’m also more supported in my work. Rather than conducting fieldwork and becoming intimately acquainted with the species and landscape that I’m conserving, I’m 500 miles away, sitting behind a computer in my living room. Rather than engaging my colleagues with casual conversations during car rides or hikes, I send emails and have video calls while trying to be mindful of everyone’s time. At the same time, however, I feel like a valued and respected member of the team in a way that I never found with fieldwork. My supervisors take time to mentor me and encourage my learning process. I feel satisfied in my work and see opportunities to grow my career.

I suspect that many people within the Fish and Wildlife Service experience similar transitions and tradeoffs. We’re drawn to working in conservation because we love nature or animals and we move from field to indoor work as we move through our careers. There is more opportunity to make an impact and more financial compensation for inside work, but you lose out on time spent in places that you love. For me, I’m happy with the tradeoffs. I feel grateful for the privilege to work outdoors for as long as I did and I’m very excited for the opportunities that are being presented to me on my current path. 

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office

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