What does it take to be a conservation biologist?
Professor Andrew Smith talks about his path to high-altitude conservation science.
"I think the most important aspect of choosing a 'career path' is to follow your passions. I grew up camping and hiking in the Sierra Nevada and came to love mountains."
Because Dr. Smith loves the outdoors, it seemed like a natural first step to choose zoology as a major at the University of California, Berkeley. When Dr. Smith was a senior he needed a topic for his senior honors paper. He chose the pika. For him, the pika is a symbol of high mountain terrain. He also found that not much was known about pikas.
The honors project led Dr. Smith to want to learn more about pikas. When he applied for graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, he proposed to study the animals at both their high and low altitude boundaries.
There is also a very personal side to his choice. It is based on his love of mountains.
"I could simultaneously study pikas, hike and camp in the Sierra Nevada, and trout fish for my dinner!"
Dr. Smith began his research project on pikas in 1969. He continues to study them today in their habitats in both North America and Tibet.
Smith enjoys his career as a scientist.
"It's diverse. There is no typical day. I like that I get to lecture and I get to write", he says. "If you want, you can work internationally and make connections and travel all over the world. I could not be more fulfilled in my life's accomplishments or excited for the work that still lies ahead."
Think conservation science sounds like the career for you? Dr. Smith has some advice:
Don't get discouraged. Never give up hope. Know that you're not going to get from here to there without hard work." For Dr. Smith, there is no doubt that he chose the best possible career path for him. "I think being a professor of conservation science is the best job you can have. "
Tracy Johns. (2010, January 07). Career Path: Andrew Smith. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved March 2, 2021 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-andrew-smith
Tracy Johns. "Career Path: Andrew Smith". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 07 January, 2010. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-andrew-smith
Tracy Johns. "Career Path: Andrew Smith". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 07 Jan 2010. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 2 Mar 2021. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-andrew-smith
Andrew Smith with a young panda friend.