Wildlife Vocalizations: Mercedes Bartkovich

Biologist, Mercedes Bartkovich, assists in the translocation of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers from the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to the Talladega National Forest, Shoal Creek Ranger District in Alabama. This is an effort to increase numbers in critically small populations to prevent them from disappearing and to increase reestablishment in their historic range. Credit: Mercedes Bartkovich

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

One piece of advice that I would specifically give to those that wish to go to graduate school is to take the time and effort to find the right advisor. Even if the research sounds like your dream position, it can become a nightmare if not with the right person. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is because not only is this someone you will spend the next few years working for, but this individual will also play a big role in your academic and professional career. If you are interviewing for a graduate position, remember that the interview goes both ways. Take the time to meet with your potential advisor and get to know him or her. Think about how you work best. Do you prefer someone that checks in often or someone that is hands-off? Do you need encouragement or freedom? If possible, I even recommend meeting with his or her current graduate students to hear from them about what their likes and dislikes are about that lab or advisor.

Mercedes Bartkovich headshot. Credit: Billy Pope

I went to graduate school myself, and luckily my advisor at Alabama A&M University, Dr. Yong Wang, knew the weight of this decision prior to my committing to the program. He scheduled a campus visit where he met with me one-on-one, he had his current students gather together to meet with me without him present, and lastly had one of his current students give me a tour of the town. While I recognize that time is precious, especially in academia, any potential advisor should respect your interest in getting to know them before committing. Find an advisor that challenges you and knows your value. I didn’t understand this fully until I was working in Beijing, China for three weeks on my own per my advisor. He saw an opportunity for me to grow and be with experts in a focal part of my thesis. It ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I am thankful that my advisor believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Graduate school can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It is a great time to perfect your leadership skills and can equip you for the professional field. You owe it to yourself to find a graduate advisor that will help you thrive.

Biologist, Mercedes Bartkovich, is preparing to release a golden eagle that was recently banded and tagged with a cellular tracking device as a part of a statewide effort to learn more about the eastern population of golden eagles. Credit: Tricia Miller

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