The people who have tried to stop me often didn’t understand my vision. I had a professor in undergrad tell me that I “wasn’t fit for graduate work.” And for the more traditional fields of research she was used to, that might have been true. But I found a path, mentors, and schools that understood and supported what I wanted to accomplish. There’s always a way!
| Emotional Story
When I was 14 years old, I started volunteering at the Oregon Zoo as a ZooTeen volunteer. Over the next four years, the program became my heart and soul. I treasured every day that I got to be on grounds, hanging out with other ZooTeens and teaching people about animals. Despite these amazing experiences, though, I followed the advice of many of the trusted adults in my life and enrolled in a government and economics program at a liberal arts college with the intention of one day being a lawyer. My last day as a ZooTeen was the day before I left for college. After my last shift, I stayed behind to clean up our common area and as I locked the door to the volunteer room for the last time, the weight of the last four years flooded over me. I realized that my life would never be the life I wanted if I left that day and never came back. I didn’t know what that meant, or what it would look like as a career, but the next day I went to college and changed my major to biology. It was without a doubt the most influential moment of my life and I have no regrets!
| Conservation Tip
Conservation isn’t actually about animals so much as it’s about people – in your conservation work, include diverse voices and listen to what they have to say. Get people involved.
1. Say yes to anything that feels remotely right, even if it scares the hell out of
2. Be yourself. Be yourself. Be yourself.
3. Never give up. When it gets hard, find a different approach. There’s a million different ways to accomplish your goals, so don’t get too attached to one path.
| If You Could Be Any Animal, What Would You Be?
I’ve always answered, “Elephant” or “bar-headed goose,” but honestly I think I’d just love to be my cat, Catniss. Girl has a good life.
Social: Twitter/Instagram: @kathazra and @otterandink