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Careers in Ornithology

Melanie Colón

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At the latest AOU-COS meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, the Student Affairs and Early Professionals Committees organized an 8-member panel to discuss the diversity of career options available to ornithologists and provide tips on how to be a successful candidate for different positions. The panel discussion was well attended by students and early career professionals who had many questions.


On this site, I will post materials made available during that workshop as well as panelists' contact information. Soon, I will also post notes/highlights from the panel discussion. I welcome any additional materials members of OE might find appropriate for this topic.

Panel members (in the order they presented) included:

Barbara Kus (barbara_kus@usgs.gov) from the  USGS, a federal agency
Megan Philips-Schaap (
mphilips@swca.com) from SWCA, an environmental consulting company
Jean Woods (jwoods@delmnh.org) from the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which is a museum not associated with university

Elizabeth Condon (econdon@savingcranes.org) from International Crane Foundation, a nonprofit organization

Jennifer Owen (owenj@anr.msu.edu) from Michigan State University, a large, research school

Michael Butler (butlermw@lafayette.edu) from Lafayette College, a small liberal arts school  
Mark Howery (mark.howery@odwc.ok.gov) from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, who discussed working for state agencies
Lori Blanc (lblanc@vt.edu) from Virginia Tech University who discussed alternative careers within academia


Thanks also to Kirsten Winter, from the USFS, who provided a handout below describing career options with the federal government.






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Hi all! Thanks for having me at the forum. I wanted to add a few things that I didn't mention during my quick talk.


  • Scientists, grad students in particular, make GREAT nonprofit workers. Scientists are incredibly passionate about their work, and this passion carries over easily into nonprofit work. Grad students are really good at multi-tasking (you have to be to survive grad school), and nonprofit work often demands that you do the same.
  • If you are only interested in doing research for publication, and not for any applied purpose, then nonprofit work is not for you. You will not have the freedom to do whatever you want with your research. If you are interested in being a team player and doing research that serves the mission of your nonprofit, then nonprofit work might be good for you. But do your homework--find a nonprofit that is a good fit for your research needs.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Or if you want to visit the International Crane Foundation!


Lizzie Condon


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Hi all,


Please see attached my notes from the panel discussion. I also included a lot of information that I did not share due to lack of time. Hopefully, you will find some of it a bit more encouraging in its entirety - particularly for those of you interested in pursuing this career path :-). 


Jen Owen


Final Notes on RU_VH Job Information COSAOU2015 meeting.pdf

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