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Making your own luck in ecology

I want to preface this post by saying – like everyone else I’ve met in the ecology and wildlife conservation space – how grateful I am to work with wildlife and how hard I worked to get here. But privilege aside, today we are talking about making your own luck.

“Lucky you” is the classic response I receive when I tell people I am an ecologist. Today we’re talking about where this comes from and why it can be both a good and bad thing!

“Lucky you” Making your own luck in ecology | #itsawildlife

As an ecologist, when you talk to people about what you do for work, more often than not, the response goes something along the lines of “oh wow – lucky you”

You would never hear that same response for people who identify as being, say, a nurse, a waiter, an accountant or a receptionist – most other professions really!

While there is always a certain level of luck associated with everything you do, it’s also important to recognize that you make your own luck – and everyone in the ecology space has worked damn hard and often made huge sacrifices to get to where they are today.

The more people I speak to, the more I realise how intentional and often driven you need to be to break into the ecology space! Once you’ve started down this path, you find that chasing a career in this industry can be all-consuming– and chance doesn’t seem to come into it.

For anyone with even the slightest amount of imposter syndrome surrounding their job (or ideal job they want) – I’m here to tell you –

You deserve to work your dream job

You have worked so hard to be here

You cand and should follow your passion

You are making a positive difference for the earth by following your passion.

And saying “lucky you” can often undermine the passion and hard work you did to get to where you are and go where you still want to go from here.


Realistically, this sentiment probably comes from both inside and outside the industry.

Outside the industry

It’s just one of those things isn’t it – so many kids dreamt of being a zoo keeper (aka an animal-cuddler), a marine biologist (aka mermaid!), even a vet when they grew up – and for many people, that fantasy never fully went away.

Without understanding the realities of this type of work (and getting into it in the first place) it can be so easy to put “stereotypical dream jobs” like ecology and wildlife conservation on a pedestal and glorify them without having a realistic perspective of what they’re all about.

For most people, the wildlife career path (or lack thereof) is a total mystery – smoke and mirrors.

All they know is who wouldn’t want to play with animals all day?

Inside the industry

inside the industry, people say lucky you, because they understand might’ve made sacrifices or experienced the struggles and challenges for themselves of getting their foot in the door or landing a paid, stable job.

Because of the limitations in funding and positions within the industry, landing work can be competitive and demand huge time or energy commitments, often at the expense of other things. This can lead to resentment and comparison when hearing one-sided, often abbreviated or even exaggerated accounts of how others “succeeded so easily”

After all, “comparison is the thief of joy”


When recounting their story, most people leave out the less glamorous parts – not necessarily on purpose, but take success and add time, and you’ve just created your very own rose-tinted glasses.

Early on – remember feeling lost for direction, the financial uncertainty, the periods of unemployment, the bad grades, the deadlines, the long hours of working for free, the realization that you couldn’t stay in your town if you wanted to pursue your dream job…?

And when you finally landed your dream job – the tight budgets, the physical demands of fieldwork, the long periods of isolation, the difficult professional relationships to navigate, the busting your gut trying to fit a lifetime’s to-do list into a 40-hour work week…?

Success + time = all that stuff just slips from your memory.

“Lucky you” | #itsawildlife


It breaks my heart to think of all the amazing, passionate, experienced wildlifers who have been discouraged or unable to pursue their dream job in ecology or wildlife conservation because of the challenges and barriers to entry (and retention!)

Although we can certainly feel grateful and appreciate our journey to get to where we are today, I think taking the idea of working your dream job off the pedestal is an important first step to opening the space for people to consider a career in ecology or related.

Of course, at the end of the day it comes down to funding as well. But valuing the work that ecologists do by giving it a more realistic representation and encouraging ecologists to stand up for the value of their time is important. Why? Because, at the end of the day, although you may be passionate, it’s also your job.

Ecologists should be paid their worth for the services they provide and never feel guilted to over-commit themselves because of the privilege they feel to work in a job they are passionate about.


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