| Areas of Expertise

Wildlife Conservation & Anthropology

| Born

Jupiter, Florida, USA

| Currently

Oxford, United Kingdom

| Favorite Quote

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting”

 

– H. Murakami

| Job Title

Ph.D. Student

| Degree

Masters of Science in Primate Conservation, Bachelors of Science in Anthropology, Minor in Journalism

| Team work makes the dream work.

 

| Biography

I grew up as an only child on a farm in Southern Florida, which meant I spent a lot of time covered in mud and finding critters. When I started my undergraduate career I had dreams of becoming a doctor, but I couldn’t shake my love of animals. Fast forward through my time spent volunteering with tigers in Texas, and flying birds over zoo guest heads in Florida, and I knew that the medical field wasn’t for me. Eventually, I landed my job at the Dallas Zoo in college. I was an outreach specialist and I loved sharing my love of the natural world with people. For my undergraduate research, I went with a group to Sierra Leone where we searched for a group of threatened chimpanzees. It was there, sweating in that forest, that I found my footing in the world. Despite the challenges, I knew I was made for fieldwork. By combining journalism with conservation, I built a modest online community at www.endangeredliving.com where I post about science news and my own time in the field. After completing my Masters in Science I couldn’t shake the idea that I had to go back to Sierra Leone to see how the country, and chimps, were faring after the 2014 Ebola epidemic. I am lucky enough to be starting my Ph.D. to look at how epidemics like Ebola shape culture and conservation!

| Challenges

The amount of times I have heard, “Aren’t you afraid of XYZ because you’re a woman?” is astounding. Not only that, but I’ve been told that “women just don’t sell,” in the context of science communication because people don’t trust their expertise. But I just keep on sharing what I know, because in the wise words of Miss Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate.

| Emotional Story

When you go to places like Sierra Leone you always have to remember that people view wildlife very differently from you. In Sierra Leone, it is not uncommon to think of animals more as things than, say, emotional beings like we might think in the U.S. It is understandable that people wouldn’t spend time or emotions worrying about animals when their own family is threatened by disease, war, or hunger. However, when it comes to conservation this can be problematic. People don’t always understand why you are showing up in their community to focus on these animals they see every day. On my first trip to Sierra Leone, we spoke to the community every day to share why we care about the environment around them and how things have their place and importance in the ecosystem. I particularly focused on how if you see an animal, you shouldn’t take it from its habitat (a common occurrence, especially with children). By the end of our trip, a boy came up to us with a small tortoise that the other children had tied a make-shift leash to, and told us that he wanted us to help free it because he knew it belonged in the forest. To see that you’re actually having an impact, even if it was one time, for one tortoise, is an awesome feeling.  

| Conservation Tip

Have a voice! Communicate and share why you love what you love, and always remember to build other women up, not to tear them down. If more women wanted to learn from women and accepted them as capable of conducting the ‘dirtier’ sides of scientific research, then maybe the world would respond in-kind.

| Advice

1. If you’re going to do field work in foreign countries, you’re going to encounter a lot of overt sexism. Be respectful (for safety concerns), but also let them see that you are strong and intelligent, and they will show you respect in return.
2. Observe everything; then write it down. When you’re out in the field but haven’t seen your study species for days, don’t just ignore that strange bird doing a strange behavior because you’re there to study primates, observe the bird too.
3. Always be open to learning about why people might think differently than you. Always make sure to let go of your ethnocentrism.

| If You Could Be Any Animal, What Would You Be?

I would be a bird because I have a slight fear of heights and a constant need for freedom (I like to think birds don’t have fears of heights, and it’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to change about myself).

| Contact

Website: www.endangeredliving.com Learn more about me, my work, my journey to where I am now, and general fun facts about the natural world.
Social: @SarahsGoneWild