Starting as an unpaid New England Aquarium (NEAq) intern paid off in the end for NRE graduate Emily Daly, who is now a full-time Program Educator at the same institution. Daly uses her technical fisheries and ecology background to connect people to our oceans, and she goes home with a smile each day. Here is what she said in an interview.
What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? I graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree. I was in natural resources and the environment (NRE) with a concentration in fish and wildlife conservation and a minor in ecology and evolutionary biology.
What class was most useful to you? Several have helped in my work when it comes to talking to the public about ongoing research and conservation in a manner that is applicable to every individual. One NRE course, human dimensions of natural resources, helped me have meaningful discussions with people who have different opinions of social or political issues regarding natural resources. I also took a public speaking course where I learned certain techniques that I use every day in my work. For example, what I learned then helped me frame a talk I now give to an audience of up to 400 visitors at our largest exhibit, the Giant Ocean Tank.
Other courses in ecology and evolutionary biology gave me the technical and taxonomic background I needed. In addition, I got clearance for a graduate level environmental education course that solidified my desire to be in experimental, non-profit education rather than in a formal classroom setting.
Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn. I trained with the student distance running club, UConn Endurance, and I am still very close with my teammates. Since my junior year, I have run eight half marathons, one Ragnar Relay and one full marathon with some of my fellow UConn alumni.
I enjoyed associating with the like-minded members and networking with local wildlife professionals as part of the UConn Chapter, Wildlife Society, where I was secretary and president. My favorite activity was to shadow the research process on black bear movement patterns with DEEP, which involved getting up close and personal with the newly born cubs.
Professor Morty Ortega was the leader of my education abroad trip to South Africa in 2013. I experienced an amazing ecosystem and met amazing people. Not only did I see and track the animals in their natural environment, I got a chance to see animals, such as rhinos and elephants that could very soon be extinct in the wild.
In addition, I loved being a College Ambassador for CAHNR. The position opened my eyes to the importance of networking, an invaluable skill that ultimately helped me lock in my internship and start at NEAq. Through this experience, I also learned that Dean Weidemann’s wife makes the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten.
Please describe your current job. I am a Program Educator for NEAq. One of my goals is to take technical conservation and research to the public in a manner that helps them understand their impact and stake on the environment. We do this via engagement with kids and adults of all ages in order to stimulate community-level involvement and change.
In the building, I do visitor education with exhibit interpretation, live animal presentations and behind-the-scenes tours. Outside the building, I do outreach, which is the most rewarding part of my job. I often bring animals with me to schools because they facilitate a tactile connection to the marine ecosystem for the students. I also go to community centers and farmer’s markets. As I talk about local fisheries and conservation projects as well as what is going on worldwide, I encounter different levels of background knowledge.
Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life? Yes. At one point, I saw myself in a research position, but I have since fallen in love with being an educator. I can take what I know to the community. I enjoy working with like-minded staff, our connections to research all over the world and getting tangible positive feedback from students and teachers. I always go home with a smile.
Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future? 1) It is okay not to know right away what you want to do for a career. 2) Be adaptable; go with a job where you find it. It is all about the connections. 3) Be open-minded about possible jobs, even if they start unpaid. This is huge. 4) Be flexible with your work schedule. Consider things that are not nine-to-five jobs. While I work 40 hours a week, I am happy that I don’t have a rigid schedule.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I do not sit still for very long. I love to run, bike, hike, travel, cook and network with members of the marine science community.
I miss UConn every single day. I would do all of it again.
By Patsy Evans