Landing my dream job

Today, I got up and went to one of my favorite places to do my dream job. I‘ve been visiting the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park since before I can remember. I’m not exaggerating! When my mom was 9 months pregnant with me she used to come to the Safari Park and push my brother in his stroller in an attempt to induce labor. Even when we moved out of state, I would visit California and my grandma would take me to the Zoo and Park. Everyone who worked here seemed to love their job and enjoy what they did every day, and that was something I wanted to be a part of.

I started college at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) thinking I would graduate with an Animal Science degree and go straight into veterinary school. Within my first week at Cal Poly I was getting hands on experience with animals, large and small, and I knew I picked the right degree path.

Ultimately, I discovered veterinary medicine was not for me, but I realized I wanted to work in a reproductive sciences laboratory. My strategy? Essentially, I bugged my reproductive sciences professor every day, reminding him of how much I wanted to work in his laboratory. My persistence paid off, and he gave me an interview to work in his laboratory as a Research Assistant.

Working as a Research Assistant, I was immersed in the lifestyle of working in a lab - and I loved it. Watching oocytes and sperm come together to form an embryo was amazing to witness first hand. My research focused on cryotolerance, or the ability to survive the freezing and thawing process, of in vitro produced bovine embryos, and I soon gained confidence in my laboratory skills.

My mentor was a master’s student who had worked at the Institute for Conservation Research (ICR) as a Summer Fellow. She had spent her fellowship working in the Reproductive Sciences group, specifically with the endocrinology team. The way she talked about how much she had loved working there further reinforced my goal of one day working there too. 

I had enjoyed studying animal reproduction through college, but after graduation I found myself working in a human fertility clinic. The work was rewarding, but I knew I wanted to be doing conservation related work in a zoological setting.

I kept my eye on the job opportunities page on the San Diego Zoo's website for many months, and one day, there it was! An open Research Associate position at the Institute for Conservation Research in the Reproductive Sciences department! Even better, it was to work on the Northern White Rhino Initiative (NWRI)!

I quickly submitted an application and crossed my fingers, hoping to hear some good news. 

When the day finally came and I arrived at the ICR for an interview, I was super nervous. I was interviewing for my dream job, and the last thing I wanted to do was mess it up. When I arrived, I was blown away by the Institute. The magnitude of the Frozen Zoo, the beautiful laboratories, and the walls covered with research posters highlighting the work being done was awe inspiring. As I left, I felt good about my interview despite having tripped over my own feet during the building tour. 

Once I was offered the Research Associate position, I accepted immediately. In the short time since I have started here at the Institute, I have gained so much knowledge from the people who surround me. They are keen to share their research and discuss the impact it will have on the species they are helping to thrive.

ICR researchers are intensely passionate about their work; this passion is truly infectious, and I have felt it from every employee within San Diego Zoo Global.

Eight months ago, I went on a Caravan Safari at the Safari Park and was in tears of joy while feeding Greater One Horned Rhinos. Today, I am working my dream job monitoring rhino hormone levels, aiding in ultrasounds, and helping to bring a species back from the brink of extinction. I feel that the events in my life and the skills I have acquired have all led me to this position. The ecstatic feeling from when I was hired hasn't gone away; the mission and the people who work to achieve it reignite that feeling every day and I am so proud to be part of that now.