Wildlife Vocalizations: Laurie Ferreras

Photo of Laurie Ferreras. Credit: Carlos Munoz

Wildlife Vocalizations is a collection of short personal perspectives from people in the field of wildlife sciences.

If you asked me eight years ago, I did not know what lesson life was trying to teach me through the obstacles it presented. 

In 2013, I lost everything. My parents divorced after years of domestic violence. My house in New Jersey was almost foreclosed, and I moved to the Bronx. I couldn’t attend a four-year college. The cherry on top of my misfortune was learning about my father taking my mom to court to not support me in college. 

Despite the frustration, sadness and disappointment I felt, I knew I had to be strong. I knew I needed to continue to believe in myself because my education became my source of freedom. 

Once I decided to put aside my fears and muster the courage to continue my path, nothing could stop me from achieving my goals. I attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, put all of my focus on my courses, and graduated as a journalist officer of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society in 2015. 

TWS members Laurie Ferreras and Marcellus Murray with Kimberly Russell, assistant professor at Rutgers University, work on an independent research and senior honors thesis collecting wild bees from one of Russell’s PSEG powerline study sites. Credit: Kimberly Russell

I transferred to Hunter College with a scholarship after graduation. I had majored in English, and I did love the faculty in the English department, but taking an animal behavior class and telling my story at The Moth, a nonprofit in New York City that offers a platform storytelling, made me realize how much I wanted to be outdoors and study animals. 

I transferred to Rutgers University in spring 2018 when I was still living in the Bronx. It was a three hour train ride four days a week. I eventually influenced my family to move back to New Jersey that summer, and I finally felt like I had more control of my life despite knowing it would take me another three years to complete an animal science or ecology, evolution and natural Resources (EENR) major. 

I intended to major in animal science, but taking an introduction to ecology and evolution class and a basic scuba diving course changed my career path. I realized what I really wanted was to study and protect wild animals. Topics about invasive species, paleoecology and marine life fascinated me. I cannot tell you how many times I geeked out to my family and friends as I told them stories about the things I learned in class whether it was hands-on or through lectures. 

When I majored in EENR, I was able to demonstrate my potential at full capacity. I became vice president of The Wildlife Society. I am also a scholar for George H. Cook Scholars Program, where I research effective methods in surveying wild bees with assistant professor at Rutgers Kimberly Russell. I am a temporary volunteer for Julie Lockwood’s eDNA lab, an ambassador for the School of Environmental and Biological Studies where I encourage prospective students to major in animal science or EENR, and much more. 

Life has taught me many things the past eight years. The most important two lessons I learned were to believe in myself and keep moving forward. Both lessons have helped me persist and set my graduation date for spring 2021. My future goals are to take a gap year and apply to a PhD program.

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