Perks and troubles of being a natural scientist

Facing environmental disaster one by one would think that natural scientists are all very important rockstars, admired and celebrated on screen and offline.

Well, there might be a hand full well know candidates, unfortunately these people are often dead before they receive global reputation.

However, I am certain that by nature humans are drawn to act kind and take care of their surrounding ecosystem. Some people feel responsible for a small place, others draw their circle much wider. Working with natural science in one way or the other is fulfilling but still spiked with some downsides. To give a little insight in the topic, here some of my thoughts on pros and cons of being a natural scientist.

First, I would like to mention that this opinion is drawn from my point of view, being a biologist and environmental scientist with strong focus on biodiversity, natural management, sustainability, ecology and similar. I guess an engineer will make other experiences and a physicist will draw a bunch of other conclusions.

Here: my thoughts, which grew the last maybe two years.

Facing climate change, pollution, bad agricultural practice, globalisation, digitalisation and capitalism is quite a lot to handle. And either, one decides to keep up with the speed that the system specifys, or, one opts out from it.

This invasive plant was the center of my master thesis in South Africa

I decided that I run with it and that I prefer natural science over other things. I studied biology and later on environmental protection and agricultural food production at the University of Hohenheim in Germany (including some periods abroad). During my bachelors people would ask me: are you becoming a teacher, or what can you do with your studies? What work will you be searching for afterwards? It took me very long to find an accurate answer for these questions and also for myself.

You see, when you study something like biology, you are a generalist in a very broad field. This means that each position, you might want to apply for later will put you in a position as underdog. There are little offers for true biologists outside the academic frame. This is, why my only scientific job during my bachelor time has been at one of the other institutes at the university. Other than that I just worked at regular jobs to earn money to be able to continue studying.

Depending on your location and your own flexibility, it can be difficult to find something suiting your interests. See, there are places full of Conservancies, Agencies, Companies and such to work for, during your studies. But there are also cities, which lack such oportunities, either financially or logistically. And of course, noone will tell you where to apply for an internship or an student job. You have to find your way through.

The consequence of all this is, that even if you are still young, that you will have to decide, what sort of projects you want to work at. And start evolving your skills to fit in from the beginning. This could mean, that you have to learn all about a group of animals, or plants, or landscapes, or soil and water properties. Noone really wants to hire someone, who has to learn it all from scratch. But not everyone is super determined with making such decisions. It took me quite long to finde out, which thing I do not want to do for a living.

Never the less, the chances are diverse and if you get closer to your goals, it might be that you will find a work worth of your own purpose and life vision. We as natural scientists do good. The contribution to society is incredible, we provide education, advise, development and praktical improvements. Other people volunteer in their free time to get good things done, we can simply go to work and create something beyond a work-life balance.

For me, being a scientist means being curious for a lifetime. Moreover, it means developing ideas, improving poor conditions and solving problems.

Saving the planet, which scientist has never had this in mind at some point of his career?

Me doing some limnological field work

Once you are certain, that natural science and making an green impact is your deal, you might have to face some other drawbacks. At my current internship I have had some moments with people I know, when they would kindly discredit my work and make funny comments. Yes, the work I do could involve tasks, which everyone might be able to do. But they don´t. If this happens, just stay calm and confident. I learned, that people don´t mean to offend you but they sometimes have no idea what background you possibly need to do even simple work in the field of natural science. Or how complex the information you share with them might be.

Once nature has also invaded your private life, you will reach a wonderful level of completeness. You do work, that everybody else might want to do. You might even change your lifestyle through the experiences you make with this work, you have an impact on your own footprint and maybe even of other´s. You interact with a network of intelligent, visionary and preceding people. This is simply awesome. And if you then have the privilege of working at an institution, that has great projects running, nothing will be left to argue about with nobody.

After all, my personal issue with my profession involves the way that the market handles it. Finding a paid job is definitley extremely hard. I keep wondering how people get their positions, or which possibilities I still have, which I don´t know of yet. During your studies, you don´t get a list of companies, institutions and similar provided to check out for vacancies. And many potential employers are not known by the general public. More economically driven companies are of course more keen on promoting themselves and their image, which makes it easier for people to find them in case they want to work there.

And now that I am done with studying, it became quite hard to get to a starting point, where I would receive proper payment for my work. Often, internships are set up to leave you with little or no pay. Even large federal departments and internationally known institutions try to be as economically as possible. But for me and many others, there was no time during our studies to work for free at such unpaid positions, neither could we afford it. So persistence and patience is the only way of getting through.

I do believe that this deficiency will be coped with in the closer future as structures and minds shift fast. I do also believe that appreciation and the demand for scientists in all branches will increase in the future.

Until then, I stay calm and write my applications.


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© First Image: own image

© Second Image: own image


#science #natrualscientist #biology #environment #profession #ecology #jobs

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