Wildlife Vocalizations: Nicole Alonso-Leach

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

In a single word, the advice I would give to my 18-year-old self and those entering the wildlife profession is: internships. I am fortunate enough to have had four internships with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) before I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I was an intern at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in 2012 and again in 2013. In 2014, I was an intern at Austin headquarters with the Private Lands and Public Hunts office. That summer, I got an internship at the Matador WMA. With these experiences, I learned a lot of skills I use today as the biologist at the Chaparral WMA. I also met a lot of people and made some lasting relationships.

Alonso-Leach on a tractor seeding milo for dove and quail forage at the Chaparral WMA. Credit: Nicole Alonso-Leach

However, another piece of advice is to be flexible. Even with these internships and experiences, when I graduated with my master’s degree, TPWD was in a hiring freeze. I had three options:  take a job unrelated to wildlife, leave the state, or move in with my parents. I went with option two. I took a job as Farm Bill Coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. I know everyone has a dream location or even just a desired location, but sometimes we must work with the hand we are dealt. Start somewhere less desirable and move to your final goal. While I was excited about the job in Idaho, it turned out to not be the best fit for me. However, I stayed in the position for two years to see if I would come to enjoy the position and to learn what I could about management in different parts of the country. The more diverse your experiences are, the more effective you will be as a biologist. Don’t fall into the mentality of “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Be innovative. There are many ways of doing things. Just because it is the way it has always been done doesn’t make it the best way.

Alonso-Leach captures a western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Oscar Perez for an ongoing data set on the Chaparral WMA. All rattlesnakes seen are caught, pit tagged, measured and released. Credit: Kata Hass

The final piece of advice I would offer is to not silence yourself just because you aren’t a supervisor, or you think you aren’t far enough into your career. If you see injustice or discrimination, whether it is directed at you or not, stand up. It is always your place to ensure you and your co-workers are being treated fairly. Sometimes, all it takes is someone brave enough to say, “that’s not funny” or “that is not appropriate.” Minorities are at a disadvantage here, and we need the support of our co-workers to overcome discrimination. Just be kind.

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For questions, please contact Jamila Blake.

Header Image: Nicole Alonso-Leach hunting turkeys in Idaho. Credit: Jeremiah Leach