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No Two Paths Are The Same: Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

No Two Paths FWCB
Jonathan Garrow (left) and Alexandra Morrison (right)

Here at the College of Natural Resources, students are finding new ways to blend their passions with the skills they learn in the classroom. From unique internships and combined courses of study to unmatched career opportunities, no two students choose to forge the same path during their time here.

To showcase the unique nature of our majors and career placements, we’ll be sharing stories of students and recent alumni of the college who are using their education to land specialized jobs in the industry.

For this feature we spoke with Alexandra Morrison and Jonathan Garrow, two recent graduates of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program.

What year did you graduate?

Jonathan Garrow (JG): I graduated in the fall of 2010.

Alexandra Morrison (AM): 2014

What degree/degrees did you graduate with?

JG: Bachelor of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology with a minor in Forest Management

AM: Bachelor of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, wildlife concentration

Please tell us about some of the internships or work-study experiences you had while enrolled in the college.

JG: There was no shortage of resume-developing opportunities available while I attended the College of Natural Resources. I was able to do everything from basic data entry and vegetation sampling to aiding in physiological sampling of white-tailed deer. In the short time I was in school, I worked in the Hoffmann Forest, the Hill Forest, Bull Neck Swamp, the Roanoke River, the mountains of North Carolina, private timberlands in South Carolina, and private farmland in Kentucky.

AM: I was an intern at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences during the summer of 2012 in the Naturalist Center. During that internship I was responsible for the supervision of the Naturalist Center, identification and natural history knowledge of North Carolina flora and fauna, and the development of an oology (study of bird eggs) exhibit that is still on display to this day in the center. That internship turned into a paid position during the same summer, and I continued to work as a student naturalist every semester until I graduated.

What have you done since graduation?

JG: Right after graduation, I worked for Tall Timbers Research Station near Tallahassee, FL. This was a great opportunity where I really enhanced my interests for prescribed fire and upland ecosystems. I also worked for a private environmental services firm in Charlotte, NC, before ultimately finding my way to Fort Bragg in 2013.

AM: Post-graduation, I worked both summers of 2014 and 2015 as a teaching assistant for the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology (FWCB) six-week field-based summer session. I assisted in teaching FWCB students about NC ecosystems, plants, animals, and hands-on management practices in the coastal plains, piedmont and mountains.

After graduation in May 2014 and my first summer as an FWCB teaching assistant, I moved home to Tampa, FL. Beginning in August 2014, I became the photography intern for Carlton Ward Jr., a noted Florida-based conservation photographer and National Geographic Explorer. Being a self-taught professional photographer and native Floridian with a knowledge of Florida’s environmental issues and wildlife, I was a perfect fit in assisting him with telling the stories of Florida’s wildlife and wild lands through the camera lens.

In January of 2015, Carlton, the photographer, a conservationist named Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and a black bear biologist named Joe Guthrie embarked on a 70 day, 1000 mile, hiking, biking and kayaking journey through wild Florida. The purpose of this expedition, called the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, was to highlight wildlife, wild lands, and watersheds that need to be protected in the state. I accompanied the three expeditioners as Carlton’s photography intern and expedition production assistant. The trek began in Florida’s Green Swamp and headed north until we reached Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida’s panhandle 1000 miles later near the border of Alabama. I contributed to the production of a book and film based upon our journey as well as in-expedition photography, image cataloging and production management and trek logistical coordination. Our film, The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida, will be airing nationally on PBS in early 2016.

Where do you work? Doing what?

JG: Currently I am a Wildlife Biologist for the United States Army. I am privileged to work on Fort Bragg here in my home state of North Carolina. My role is to help enhance training opportunities for the Army through sound land management practices. I find it very rewarding to work with the best soldiers in the world and help influence management of the Fort Bragg training landscape.

AM: I am currently a full-time masters student in North Carolina, but when I can, I travel down to Florida and work as Carlton Ward’s field assistant. My work involves traveling on various assignments to photograph wild Florida, managing his photographic work flow, interacting with field biologists and conservationists and communicating with clients. After the completion of my masters, my hope is to find full-time employment as an environmental educator in Florida.

How did your classes at the College of Natural Resources influence your post-graduation career choice?

JG: I was pretty confident in my projected career choice before I attended college. The academic programs and coursework offered within the College of Natural Resources definitely brought me to NC State. Once I began my core courses I was then able to determine how I would like to focus my future career search within the natural resource management community. The great thing about the opportunities the college provides is that they help you develop the skills to turn your personal interests and outdoor passions into a career.

AM: Being a part of the College of Natural Resources was truly an enriching and formative experience. My career path was particularly influenced by FWCB course work involving the educational aspects of wildlife management, such as in Dr. Peterson’s Human Dimensions of Wildlife course. I was exposed to human-wildlife issues, and I had the opportunity to work with the “people” side of wildlife through in-person interviews during the project portion of the course.

I was also majorly influenced by the FWCB six-week summer coursework. The idea of physically taking students into nature and introducing them to incredible wildlife and unique ecosystems was simply amazing.

Something often said in the FWCB program is “wildlife management is people management,” and the courses that highlighted that mantra for me were most influential in choosing the path of education rather than wildlife management or becoming a wildlife biologist. I was exposed time and time again to scenarios where wildlife conflicts or crises could have been avoided if people were only properly educated as to the best practices in regards to interacting respectfully and responsibly with wildlife and wild lands.

How do you feel that the College of Natural Resources prepared you to succeed after graduation?

JG: If you look at the College of Natural Resources versus the other colleges within NC State, it is relatively small if not the smallest. This is indicative of the career fields which you will likely move on to be a part of. The most important things I learned from the College of Natural Resources were to maximize your opportunities and develop relationships. The natural resources professional community is a small one, and NC State is well respected within that community. The relationships I developed and experiences I had while attending the college have definitely allowed me to be successful.

AM: Without a doubt, the ample opportunities for personal and professional growth promoted through the college were my primary sources of post-graduation success. Opportunities for internships, undergraduate research, study abroad experiences, club involvement and personal interaction with professors and graduate students were in no short supply during my time in the College of Natural Resources, and it was through seizing those various opportunities that I gained the confidence to go on to what I have accomplished today.