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Careers in Science


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Careers in Science

Justin Brashares
Conservation Biologist

How did you choose your present profession? What were your biggest motivators? Who are your greatest mentors or heroes?
I've always been drawn to wild things and wild places, so it wasn't easy being a suburban kid with a mother who feared travel! Other careers seemed more practical at times, but I followed my heart. I was and am inspired by intrepid explorers and grizzled field biologists, but my heroes are my parents who respected and encouraged my path despite that it was unfamiliar to them and often meandering.
Was there a pivotal event in your life that helped you decide on your career path?
Two key events: 1) I was struggling mightily in my first ecology course in college and thought maybe my heart and brain had different ideas about my career path when the course professor pulled me aside one day and said "I know you're struggling but don't give up; you'll get it." 2) I traveled to Africa when I was 20 and was just blown away by the cultures, landscape and wildlife.

What has been the biggest surprise in your life as a scientist?
People believe you must be smart if the title "professor" precedes your name. Trust me, it is not true!

What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
Get experience wherever you can. It will be volunteer at first, but if it makes you happy and you work hard, better things will come.

What do you like best about your profession?
The freedom to pursue issues I feel are most important, the opportunity to experience new places and people, and the chance to teach and mentor the next generation of scientists.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
I'm proudest of my kids and my marriage, but I wouldn't exactly call those my "achievements." Professionally, I've achieved some positive things but am far from reaching my goals.        
Are you optimistic for the future of the planet and if so why?
Yes, because you can't keep fighting if you don't believe there's a chance of winning.
What are your greatest fears for the future of the planet?
Apathy. People giving up on their leaders and letting big business and greed take over the political process.
What¹s the one message you would like the next generation of scientists to hear?
Despite what you may hear, we understand almost nothing about the way the world, and particularly Nature, operates. Great discoveries are ahead—let’s go!
What Web sites, books, articles and other layperson references would you recommend for viewers interested in your work featured in Strange Days on Planet Earth?
More on our work and related links are available through our Website at the University of California-Berkeley: http://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesLab/index.html Off-site Link

Visit Brashares' bio page »


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