Trade talk: Habitat helper

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Ross Donihue

As a conservation scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), a joint Canada–US non-profit organization that creates and protects wildlife habitats, Aerin Jacob has her dream job — protecting ecosystems, developing policy and helping people to coexist with wild animals.

Why do you love your work?

I've found a home for my personal values: protecting the environment, establishing connections between the health of ecosystems and of humans, and sharing our research results with the public and policymakers. In a typical week I might design plans to protect caribou habitat and set up camera traps to learn which animals inhabit the Y2Y region.

How does it differ from an academic post?

There's more collaboration — it's more 'our' research than it is 'my' research. Things I used to do on the side are now integral parts of my job, including connecting with policymakers and journalists about our research.

Why did you leave academia?

I realized that it wasn't right for me. I was once told to cut down on the service, policy and outreach parts of my work because it looked weird on my CV. Now I don't have to do that.

How did you land your job?

I had experience presenting my research at public events and on the radio, as well as in science policy through several projects, including a programme based at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, that researches low-carbon policy options. I also organized almost 2,000 young researchers to lobby the Canadian government to use science in environmental decision-making.

Do you see your position as long-term?

Yes. I have lots of ideas, such as developing a citizen-science project in which people collect data on wildlife movement, or working with isolated communities and industry to work out how to generate renewable energy while reducing negative effects on nature and protecting regional habitats. This job will never get stale.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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