Wildlife Vocalizations: Roslyn Rivas

Roslyn Rivas removes invasive plants from a green space during a day of service in her senior year at Yale University, where she graduated in 2017 with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2017.
Credit: Grace Pan

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

I’ve known I wanted to be a wildlife biologist since I was about 5 years old. I was born and raised in the Bronx in New York City and lived right next to the Bronx Zoo, and oh how I loved going to the Bronx Zoo. It was there that my love of animals and wildlife grew. Even at a young age I could recognize that zoos were important places for learning; animals were not simply caged up for entertainment, rather housed and protected for wildlife conservation education. At the zoo, I first learned how endangered tigers truly were because of poaching, and how the American bison was nearly pushed to extinction.

Roslyn Rivas is the Plants for Birds program coordinator at the National Audubon Society. Credit: Lia Bocchiaro

Years later, I had another moment while studying abroad that solidified my commitment to pursuing a career in wildlife conservation. During the summer of 2016, I participated in a four-week long, tropical biology study abroad program in Costa Rica called Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). My class and I spent nearly all our time in the forests of Costa Rica learning about wildlife and forest conservation, and conducting our own experiments each week. Soon after arriving at a new biological station we would go on a nature hike, immediately looking at our surroundings for inspiration for our next projects. During our last week of the program, our group walked through the tropical rainforest surrounding La Selva biological station, and as we were walking along a narrow path through the trees, I distinctly remember stopping and thinking that this was the kind of work I wanted to be doing in my life. When I was younger, I would envision myself being totally immersed in nature and studying wildlife up close, and whether it was weighing juvenile crocodiles, examining symbiotic relationships between ants and trees, or observing how passerine birds selected their food, here I was doing exactly what I’d imagined.

Roslyn Rivas relaxes after hiking through a tropical dry forest in Costa Rica during the summer of 2016 as part of an Organization for Tropical Studies summer abroad program. Credit: Yasmin Wilson

At the time, I wasn’t completely sure what the path towards becoming a wildlife biologist exactly entailed, despite dreaming of it my whole life. I thought there were so many things I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about yet. I wasn’t a whiz at statistics and I didn’t have a specific species I wanted to study, and that made me question whether I was really following the right path. But that moment in the rainforest reminded me of how much I actually did enjoy this work, and reassured me that this was a field I was still interested in pursuing. Since then, my passion for wildlife biology and conservation has only continued to grow.

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