When I graduated from FNR with my PhD in August, 2008, I began a position as an Assistant Professor of Human Dimensions in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. I had a 20% extension, 80% teaching appointment - that is, no dedicated time for research. Through my extension appointment, though, I continued doing applied research related primarily to lake and watershed planning and management. Around the time that I was tenured at UWSP in 2015, I decided to apply for the Research Social Scientist position with USFS. I knew it was a long-shot, but the job had a few great perks: 1) I had two very young children, and if I were able to live in the Chicago area, I’d be close to all of my family; 2) I was ready for a change, and the UW system was going through massive upheavals; and 3) it was my dream job! How could I pass up this kind of chance? These types of positions are not common, and I knew another opportunity would not come around for a long time.
With USFS, every day I feel like I’ve done at least a little bit of good. I do applied research with nearby counties on oak restoration, National Forests in the Northeast and Midwest on landscape scale conservation, and with organizations as far-reaching as the Food and Agriculture Organization on food security and climate in Africa. My advice to current students and recent graduates – not that anyone asked for it - is to take chances, apply for things you don’t think you’re qualified to do (because you probably are), learn to network if you aren’t a natural conversationalist, and don’t get stuck in a pattern of doing the same thing over and over (unless you really enjoy that).