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When I first considered a career in marine ecology, I did so with no real contacts in the field. That trajectory was truly due to personal interest and exposure to the topic as I was growing up. However, I was fortunate to have good mentorship as an undergraduate and found online resources with paid internship opportunities. Luckily, I came into my undergraduate program with an expectation to build skills and academic ability both inside and outside of the classroom, and my program (University of Rhode Island) provided a good roadmap for how the four years should progress along with some built-in on-campus summer research programs and other ancillary opportunities. However, the stepping stones to a full-on career were still obscured, as if fading into a fog.


So, how do you build this career? How far ahead can you even plan?


To make it in a career in science and conservation, grit and stick-to-itiveness combined with a career development plan implemented as early as possible are necessary ingredients. For the career plan, it is important to see how far you can plan out – four years of university is fairly easy, but a ten-year plan beyond that is imperative to allow for at least some structure. Being flexible, noting that you will meet new collaborators and become interested in new topics and questions along the way, is also recommended. Be open to those spontaneous meetups that could be career-defining. I am extremely fortunate to have large network of collaborators, centered around certain topics, that continues to expand. That was not built overnight, and one has to show both competence in the topic and in dealing with people and their idiosyncrasies. It is also important to recognize that some collaborations take time to mature, and those will progress at different rates.


What a career development plan helps to define are the skills, experiences, and topics which will be important to focus on, taking into account that you often are the victim of unconscious incompetence (that is, you don’t know what you don’t know). This last point is why it is so important to seek advice from professionals who are further along in their careers – and to seek advice from a variety of sectors of the science and conservation world. If I had sought out advice from a conservation scientist at an aquarium, for instance, perhaps I would have come to that point in my career a bit earlier. Instead, I was fortunate to land a tenure-track position, having also considered consulting and government work. I never thought I would be in the non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) space, but I also never consulted with anyone in that area until I was well into graduate school. My plan stopped with completing my Ph.D., and the hazy idea of a postdoc and perhaps a tenure-track position. I now realize what could have been done to make that a clearer professional path.


All this is to say: make a plan, seek advice, and execute that plan with grace and openness to what life may bring you. This is what we offer through Remote Ecologist to scientists in different career stages. If you are interested in more personalized and customized career advice, feel free to reach out to us via DM or info@remoteecologist.org to schedule a session.


Dr. Dave Hudson

Founder, Remote Ecologist



So you are a freshman, and made it through your first semester of college! Congratulations. However, to make it in a career in science, you need to have the academic capability, work experience, and the professional network. This is critical regardless of whether your goal is to stay in academia, work for a non-profit, or do consulting work. The latter two areas are often ones that lag when it comes to advice from academic advisors.

There are two main discussion points here:

  1. Internships, volunteer opportunities, and skills development

  2. The importance of professional conferences


Internships, Volunteer Opportunities, and Skills Development:


As a freshman, you are usually not considered trained enough for the laboratory or field. However, there are are still a few opportunities out there. Though it is no longer updated, the following is a qualified list of paid internships in the sciences, and always a good link I gave advisees of mine: https://people.rit.edu/gtfsbi/Symp/summer.htm#skip Another great resource is one that aligns students with companies’ ESG interests, like Montclair State University’s Green Teams: https://www.montclair.edu/pseg-sustainability-institute/green-teams/


Additionally, there are usually two types of opportunities on campus: working in a professor’s laboratory and summer opportunities tailored to your campus. The former is almost always able to be completed as part of a work-study program, so you can be paid, or is available as research credit which will count toward your degree plan for graduation. The latter is important to explore, as programs are developed to make sure that on-campus students are afforded access to professors’ laboratories first, much like the University of Rhode Island has a whole Coastal Fellows program only available to internal students - that is paid for the summer!


If you cannot find a paid opportunity, are those which will cost you time or money. They CAN be valuable, but you need to put a bit of work into whether they would be worth it. One option is volunteering. Non-profit organizations are always looking for volunteers, and often places like zoos and aquariums look to their volunteer pool first when it comes to selecting internships for the animal husbandry department or summer (paid) educators. Volunteering can also be rife with problems, particularly since you need to make sure it is the right opportunity for you.


The other option is a field course somewhere. Good examples are those at the Isle of Shoals (https://www.shoalsmarinelaboratory.org/academics/undergraduate/courses) and Marine Biological Laboratory (https://www.mbl.edu/education/undergraduate-programs), which both offer financial assistance to make those opportunities a better fit. Consider that these also lead to expansion of your network, by getting outside your institution for additional experience that may lead to more opportunities for collaboration with those institutions later on. An additional consideration is developing adjacent skills, like language immersion, which would help you work in places that do not speak your primary language. For instance, Fulbright Colombia offers this one: https://fulbright.edu.co/macondo-2/


The Importance of Professional Conferences:


After you have a bit of experience in a laboratory and doing field work, it is important to present that work. In my field, two great conferences to consider for students are the Benthic Ecology Meeting (https://bem.disl.edu/) and the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting (www.sicb.org). Societies that are focused on specific taxa or habitat types, like The Crustacean Society (www.crustaceansociety.org) and New England Estuarine Research Society (http://neers.org/) area also fantastic places to meet colleagues and connect, often with travel support available for students. Presenting work at a conference during your time in undergrad is CRITICAL to developing your network.


Concluding, it is important to keep in mind that these opportunities and events are cyclical, and that many summer opportunities are often posted in the winter of the previous year (November or December), with application dates as early as February. Students that take an approach that “the early bird gets the worm” and who are the most prepared in looking to the following year will typically be those who are most competitive for those opportunities. Good luck!

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Are you a scientist or conservationist looking to advance your project or make a positive impact on the environment but struggling to find funding? Many research and conservation projects and other types of environmental projects require significant financial resources that are traditionally funded by large foundations or governments, rather than through traditional investment channels. To be eligible and to secure funding, you need to partner with a university or a non-profit organization like Remote Ecologist, have the right credentials, and present your vision and budget effectively.

Step 1: Partner with a Non-Profit or University

Partnering with a university or non-profit organization like Remote Ecologist increases your chances of securing grant funding by broadening your eligibility to include those grants and funding opportunities that are normally closed to individuals. Universities and non-profits have access to larger networks of donors and funders who are interested in supporting field conservation, science, and other environmental causes. However, there are some differences in how the sausage is made: universities have more physical resources and laboratories to maintain, so their overhead rate can be as high as 65% of direct costs. What does that mean? Let's say that you have $10,000 of materials costs to purchase. The organization will charge $6,500, making the grant $16,500. This can be reasonable, especially if the project requires a lot of laboratory resources. However, many field projects have much lower actual costs for equipment, meaning that a non-profit with a 10% overhead can mean you are more likely to have a streamlined budget.


Either way, by affiliating with a university or non-profit, you gain visibility and credibility, and you can tap into their resources and expertise to help your project be successful.


Step 2: Have the Right Credentials - Or Team Up With Someone Who Does

Having the right educational qualifications is essential when it comes to applying for grants. Most grant-making organizations require applicants to have at least a master's or PhD degree in their respective fields. This requirement ensures that only qualified individuals receive funding for their projects. However, projects are implemented by collaborations of large teams, often across organizations. Each organization and individual brings a different set of expertise and credentials to the table, so grant applications are often submitted with two or more collaborating institutions/organizations. The person who serves as the "Principal Investigator" (PI) is the one who has the set of credentials needed to make sure the project will be completed along established norms.

If you're a conservationist or scientist looking to secure grant funding for your project, make sure you have the necessary educational qualifications before applying or someone on your team who does. Having advanced degrees not only makes you more eligible for grants, but also enhances your credibility as an expert in your field.


Step 3: Present Your Project and Budget Effectively

Presenting your project and budget proposal effectively is crucial when it comes to securing grant funding. Grant-making organizations need assurance that their money will be used responsibly and efficiently towards achieving the intended goals, and that those goals are achievable. They implement grant review panels of experts who rate and recommend proposals for the given funding opportunity, which are then considered by the program officer of the foundation or granting entity.


When presenting your project proposal, it is important that you make sure that your project goals are aligned with the request for proposals (RFP), and that those goals and objectives are achievable in the time allotted. Particularly, presenting pilot results and analyses can be a way of demonstrating the competence and character of the team, and can inspire confidence in the achievability.

When presenting your budget proposal, be clear about how much money you need and how it will be allocated towards different aspects of the project. Include detailed cost breakdowns, cost match and in-kind match amounts, and timelines outlining how each expense will contribute towards achieving the overall goal.



In summary, securing grant funding for a science or conservation project requires careful planning and execution. Partnering with reputable universities and non-profit organizations like Remote Ecologist can increase your chances of securing funding significantly. Having advanced degrees enhances your eligibility, while presenting budgets effectively assures grant-makers that their money will be used appropriately towards achieving intended goals.

Following these steps are a way to move towards generating sustainable, long-term funding for your project and have a positive impact on your field!

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