COMPLEXITIES OF CONSERVATION BIOLOGY: A POST-DOC PERSPECTIVE

Susan M. Cheyne

This blog has already featured many great posts about issues of funding, long-term job security, lack of a coherent training plan for post-docs and issues of feeling like you are always playing catch-up with writing up papers from past projects/grants.

I am a conservation biologist focusing on primate and large mammal behavioural ecology in Indonesia. Having completed my 3rd post-doc and with currently no other immediate prospects, I find myself job-hunting again. The market for conservation biology is limited (as are many fields) and I really would like to obtain a lecturing position. These are also few and far between and to obtain one requires past teaching and lecturing experience, something many of us will have struggled to fit into the hectic post-doc schedule.

In the absence of any formal training etc. offered to most post-docs, what I am advocating here is a more self-sufficient approach and want to share some options from personal experience and from advice given by an excellent colleague at UCL:

  • Seek out part-time teaching, lecturing, tutoring or supervising undergrad projects (and post-grad if possible). I have found it invaluable to tap into the students to get them to work on small parts of my overall research, either in the office or in the field. Delegating some parts of my research to suitable students has been vital.
  • Join professional organisations like the Institute of Biology and take part in their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.
  • Give talks to the general public or other interested groups e.g. Cambridge Scientifique which organises informal talks on a wide range of subjects to a diverse audience.
  • Get on social media especially Twitter (but maybe have 2 accounts, so you keep private and work stuff separate!). Attending seminars on how to manage social media in science is also helpful (or find a friend who has already attended one of these and pick their brains!)
  • Get on academic websites e.g. LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Google which also provide stats on your publication impact.
  • Look for journals in your field which are looking for editors and join – a great way to stay in touch with current research as well as getting your name out there.
  • When developing your own research ideas, do think about the wider impact of your work and how this can fit into the current global focus your field is taking. This can help show your current boss, or future ones, that you are a valuable commodity.

I appreciate each of these takes time, time away from research and is not easy. I spend several months a year running around the jungles of Indonesia, away from the internet (!) and inevitably come back to a packed inbox.

I don’t have all the answers (if I find them I will let you know!) but until then I hope some of this has given you some ideas. If all else fails, just turn to www.phdcomics.com

Good luck!

Susan

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