[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background? Where are you from?
[RR]: I’m from Maryland, just north of Baltimore. I went to college in Virginia at the college of William and Mary. I studied biology and graduated in May. I joined ACE in August.
What motivated you to get into conservation?
In school I really enjoyed classes that focused on conservation, but I’d never actually done any hands-on work, and I wanted to try it.
How did you find ACE?
I found ACE while I was looking for jobs after I graduated, on the Society for Conservation Biology job board.
Can you tell me about one challenge and one highlight of your work with ACE so far?
Both my challenge and my highlight would be my very first project in Lake Mary. It was a month long project. Initially I struggled with getting into the physical work that’s involved with trail building. But my biggest highlight was that by the second week of that project I felt so much better, I knew how to use the tools, I was able to deal with the heat much better, I had made friends…I went from low to high really fast.
How did you motivate yourself during that initial period when you were struggling?
I just related it back to when I first found ACE online. It just looked so cool to me because it was so different. It’s not sitting in a classroom, reading a book or on the computer—you’re out there making trail with your hands and doing all this cool new stuff. So I told myself, “Okay. This is why I’m here. It’s gonna be hard, but I’m up for the challenge.” Just a personal pep talk. And of course, all the other corps members were great. They’re all going through the same challenges so they really help lift you up.
Do you have any plans for when you’ve finished your term with ACE?
Yeah. I think I want get into the field of ecology conservation. I’m applying to biology technician jobs right now, so I’d like to work either with Fish & Wildlife, or with a college—a lot of colleges hire techs on to help with their research.
Do you think ACE has helped you prepare for your career goal as a biotech?
I definitely think so. When you go to fill out these applications online, they ask you about your schooling and your background, but they also ask you about your experience with fieldwork. And that was the one thing I was missing at first. I couldn’t prove that I could hike in the backcountry or that I could work long hours in extreme conditions. Now I can say that I do have that experience. I definitely feel prepared for camping and hiking and doing all that stuff outside that would be part of a biotech job.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about becoming corps members with ACE?
I’d say don’t stand in your own way. If you’re interested in being outside and doing this work, I’d say just go for it and apply!
Would you recommend ACE to anyone?
Yes, I already have! I have friends who like camping or hiking but maybe haven’t done the extent of what we do out here, or maybe they’ve never been out west. I’ve definitely encouraged my friends to apply.