International Day of Women in Science

Today is International Day of Women in Science A day set aside by the United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, UNESCO, and the Royal Academy of Science International (RASIT), among others to celebrate women in science.

As a female conservation scientist, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share some personal reflections – both positive and negative – of my journey thus far.

I think pursuing an education in science is perhaps one of the most exciting areas to choose. Why? Because science is constantly growing – new discoveries are always waiting to be made – and working in science requires consistent creativity and openness to the the social, ecological, and physical world around us.

However, this excitement comes at a cost.

What I wasn’t prepared for while studying for my degree was just how tough making a difference in the world of conservation science can be. There is no other subject or area in my life that I feel such a weight upon my shoulders. The need for acceptance and the spread of conservation knowledge is more vast than I can even fully comprehend. Our environments, our wildlife, and our earth’s balance depends on our ability to step outside of our egos, wants, and preconceived ideas to realize we do play a bigger part in the future of this planet.

No, I am not saying it is easy. But I do wish University would teach more students about is the hardships of sharing conservation science and generating awareness towards such issues. Having learned this, students might then be better prepared with the tools to not only discover such truths, but to then mobilize change and action from them.

Science is often discounted and under appreciated by the mass majority. And this isn’t necessarily any one particular person’s fault, but it has to change. We have to start taking seriously what is going on in the world around us. We have to start believing our small changes make a difference. We have to humble ourselves and be active participants in the balance of this planet. We cannot look away when we don’t understand or when change seems hard.

And ultimately, we must strive to love others, wildlife, and this amazing planet how God first loved us. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a world where more beautiful species continue to go extinct, suffer from environmental changes at abnormal rates, or resort to life in captivity because we can’t control our own growth rates.

What I believe we need in the field of sciences, conservation specifically – is to grow unitedly towards a common goal. A goal of acceptance, wellness, and appreciation for all life.

This doesn’t mean that we  have to have all the facts or numbers in place, but instead create a new foundation for viewing our relationship with this planet. One that considers all of the intricately linked trophic levels, the importance of creating positive human-wildlife relationships, and one that encourages the acceptance of others through faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe we can battle many of the human induced threats facing our planet simply by creating a more holistic view of conservation science. One that isn’t strictly dependent on where you live, what you know, or how “environmentally conscious” you consider yourself to be.

This isn’t a specific race, party, or government issue. Environmental Conservation is global, it effects all of us, and it is now. I believe we must more deeply consider what a beautiful blessing it is to be alive, to be created by God, and to share in the resources of this planet. When you slow down and simply consider such ideas, it is tough not to feel thankful. You are valued. You are capable. And the future does depend on you.

I believe that God created this planet and its species for our joy, sustainable use, and as reminders of His sovereignty and power. 

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What conservation science has also taught me is that you have to keep going. When I was a child, I used to think that I would grow up and change the entire world for wildlife. I genuinely believed that I could solve all of the world’s conservation problems – perhaps by some quick snap of my fingers  (man, what a time)!

But the more I learn, experience, teach, travel, research, and discover – the more I realize one lifetime is just not enough.

However, what I believe you CAN can do in conservation science is be contagious. Spread your passionate, wise, and eager germs all over those around you. No matter where you work, what you do, or what others may say. Be aggressive. Make others catch the bug and ask questions. Even if you don’t know all of the answers – get them participating.

And treasure the difference you are capable of making, not expecting to always progress at 100mph.

The Conservation and Environmental Sciences are not a one time, one discovery, one project success story. Personally, I will never be satisfied. How could I in a world so full of need, potential, and importance? Being an educator, a researcher, and a student of Conservation Science means committing to a journey of self discovery, highs, lows, and compassion towards all.

I can only hope that this journey I am on inspires another girl – maybe 40 years from now  – to start out on her own. Perhaps even using some of the wisdom (and the germs) that I have left behind.

Lastly, science is not a “famed” field. You can’t be a male or female in science with the expectation that the world will always notice you.

If it happens along the way, then use that platform to impact more people and wildlife for good – not to slow down or to get distracted. The importance of spreading conservation knowledge to coming generations is imperative. In fact, its truths are literally right under our feet, out our windows, and in our lungs. However, what is also great about conservation science is that we all can play a part. You don’t have to have a degree, be on TV, or read the latest research paper to be a success story of your own.

Take a moment to reflect on your current actions… Where do you work? What do you do daily? Who is influencing your thoughts and beliefs? What limiting ideas do you have that might be worth exploring and investigating more in to? What small changes might you be able to make to conserve resources, recycle correctly, prevent contaminated runoff, purchase from sustainable companies, or simply just talk with others about their thoughts on the subject?

You never know what people are willing to share and/or do when they feel comfortable enough to do so.

So, I challenge you to simply start talking more about conservation with others. Not like it is something outside of yourself or far off. But take ownership of your humanness. Encourage them to do the same. And brainstorm how together you both can do one or two small things differently to be a proactive steward of this God-given planet.

For me, I simply desire to encourage others, educate, and do what I can to help wildlife organizations get their messages out. Whether through on camera speaking, fundraising, fitness, sharing conservation information, or through research and volunteering of my own. I am going to continue striving to bring all that I do and all that I am together to show thankfulness and care for this beautiful planet. I will continue to think consciously about my actions, my purchases, and my ability to make a change in my little world.

Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But I believe the first step to caring is to being aware. Don’t feel guilty for what you are or aren’t doing. Just be proud of yourself for acknowledging opportunities for change and growth in the first place. Like this beautiful planet, God shows us grace everyday.

I am going to continue my journey in discovering just how much I can do in the world of conservation. I encourage you to continue – or to start your own.

Thank you for reading,

Brittnei

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