The wonderful work of Eliza Stott for women in the wildlife space is fast being recognized within the natural science community worldwide. A zoo keeper, wildlife researcher and lover of wombats and dingoes, Eliza is also known for founding Women in Wildlife, an online platform that amplifies and connects women working in the wildlife industry. Since it began over a year ago, Eliza has spent her time juggling her work and life with nurturing and growing this community into the empowering and supportive group it has become. We caught up with Eliza to hear her story, career advice and journey with Women in Wildlife, as she prepared to head to Namibia for a month of African wildlife research!
Eliza didn’t know what she wanted to do whilst going through high school, but with two parents for vets, animals had always been a part of her life! Although she loved animals, being a vet didn’t really appeal to her much and she didn’t know of any other avenues to work with wildlife.
After school, Eliza took a gap year to travel and as she did, she fell more and more in love with nature that way. She started her undergraduate degree initially with 50-50 arts and science units. Very quickly, her travels, experiences with nature and wildlife volunteer placements both at home and abroad had pulled her towards wildlife conservation and she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology.
Eliza accepted a job at Ballarat Wildlife Park working with Australian mammals: wombats, koalas, kangaroos but soon after she was pulled back to academia to undertake her Honours in wildlife parasitology, looking at Sarcoptic Mange in wombats and Neosporin in dingo. During this experience she really fell in love with wildlife research: the scientific process and being out in nature doing her fieldwork.
It was whilst doing some background reading to research her Honours topic that she came across a paper, written by Wendy Anderson titled the changing face of the wildlife profession: tools for creating women leaders. This was the springboard from which Eliza did a deep dive into reducing gender inequality in the natural sciences field by creating a community to empower women working in the wildlife space.
In preparation for the start of her PhD continuing her research on Sarcoptic Mange in wombats, Eliza is spending some time gaining new field experiences and skills, and magnifying the impact of the Women in Wildlife community she has created.
Women in Wildlife
Founded just over a year ago by Eliza, Women in Wildlife is an online platform that amplifies and connects women working in the wildlife industry. The idea was sparked when Eliza stumbled across a paper written by Wendy Anderson about gender inequality and the three unmet needs of women working in the wildlife industry which she considered could narrow the gap:
- Flexible working hours
- Opportunities for career development
- A lack of a female support network
As she wasn’t an employer, Eliza felt she didn’t have the opportunity to readily implement the first 2 changes however she was inspired by the third idea and felt she could make a difference there. This was when Women in Wildlife was born.
Eliza had always been inspired by strong women in natural sciences and loved the energy that women bring and the support they can provide for each other so thought it would be a great space to work in. This is what encouraged her to start taking steps to transform her idea into a reality.
Early on, the Women in Wildlife team consisted of just Eliza who worked hard to set up social media platforms, a Facebook group to connect women and conduct interviews to share the stories of women in wildlife. As the platform experienced rapid, organic growth, so did the workload – and after Eliza put out some feelers, she quickly formed what has now become a small team who could see the value of a resource like Women in Wildlife for its community.
Unfortunately, while there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to improve the flexibility of working hours, create opportunities for career development and other unmet needs of women in the wildlife industry, Eliza hopes that Women in Wildlife is able to create a unified voice to create important changes to improve conditions and encourage more women of future generations to get involved in the wildlife space.
Women in Wildlife continues to grow and provide a support network for women and show the up-and-coming generation that there are women thriving in wildlife roles who can act as role models and mentors.
So, what’s on the cards for the future and where would Eliza like to see it go?
“It’s always a bit of a juggling act to balance my work, life and study commitments with all the ideas I have to build and grow Women in Wildlife even more”
Eliza would like to develop leadership and mentorship programs run for young people looking to get into the wildlife industry and develop ways to increase funding to increase opportunities for women to become involved in the wildlife industry.
“One of our next steps towards achieving this is registering Women in Wildlife as a not-for-profit organization… which we’re fast realizing is no easy task!”
As Eliza and the team continue to work towards realizing their bigger dreams for Women in Wildlife, they also continue to produce webinars, monthly newsletters and a global representation program to grow the platform and continue to inspire and connect more women.
So, if you are a woman (or know a woman) in the wildlife space – what are you waiting for? There are so many ways to suss it out, get inspired and get involved! You can also share your story on Let’s talk Tuesday and promote yourself or your project by submitting a feature on their blog and social media.
Eliza’s career advice
As a leader in this space, Women in Wildlife has the opportunity to help aspiring women move into their dream job, working with wildlife. Eliza has 3 top tips for advancing your wildlife career:
First of all, networking is always so important – chatting with people, not necessarily when you’re after a job but simply to share stories and build a connection. Rather than just making a decision off a highlights reel – networking and conversations help you to understand the different careers you can actually pursue in the industry, what those jobs look like on a day-to-day basis and the pros and cons of each. Although it can seem scary, people are so open and willing to help – they want to support you and see you flourish.
Secondly, without overcommitting, try saying yes to different opportunities as they arise as this will add new skills, broaden your perspective or provide new industry connections even if it might not feel like your dream job.
Lastly, stay open to a wide variety of wildlife experiences and try not to put yourself in a box too early and open yourself to opportunities – give everything a go and don’t narrow your niche without shopping around.
Eliza wanted to encourage all women in the wildlife space to reach out to Women in Wildlife and share your story with this supportive network of like-minded women. Eliza reminds us –
“You deserve the space that you occupy within the wildlife space – and as a woman you should never question that”.
Keep in touch
Want to hear more from Eliza? Check out our conversation in this week’s podcast episode.
You can follow Women in Wildlife on Facebook (Women in Wildlife), Instagram @women.in.wildlife, LinkedIn (Women in Wildlife), YouTube (Women in Wildlife) and in a private Facebook group (WOMEN IN WILDLIFE).
Head to the website to find out more and subscribe to their free monthly newsletters and if you’d like merchandise, they also have a shop!
You can follow Eliza’s adventures on Instagram @biologist.eliza or LinkedIn (Eliza Stott).
Get on board and subscribe for #itsawildlife updates– we send monthly emails with fresh tips and fun updates! It’s free and friendly, so what are you waiting for?
What are your thoughts? Do you have questions or feedback for us? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch by email, in the comments or you can use social media like Instagram.
Eliza’s team at Women in Wildlife has grown to include Maddy, Kaytlyn, Von, Cat and Jess who contribute to the day-to-day running of the platform.