Ariana Klappert (pronouns: she/her) is an all-rounded biologist with a passion for working with African mammals as well as a love of science communication which she does a lot of on the side. She recently completed her masters and is looking towards the next steps. We speak about Ariana’s experiences, ways to get involved in science communication and aiming for balance when your life is crazy busy! Wherever you’re at in your career, her main advice is to follow your passions and stick with it!
Ariana was born in South Africa and spent a lot of time in nature with her family from a very young age. Her first safari was at the age of one – which sparked a passion for nature which has stood the test of time.
Now based in Germany, Ariana has continued to follow her passion for wildlife: first with a bachelor in biology which was more of a lab-based experience with a focus on molecular biology, and more recently, with a Masters in evolutionary and paleo-biology which was more field-based with a focus on zoology at the University of Bonn.
“I guess I spent a lot of time in this synthetic biology direction which I loved to bits but noticed I was working myself way too hard. I realized I missed being in the field – because I’m a field person, it’s where I feel the happiest so I started looking for Masters opportunities in that direction”
Now that she has finished her Masters, Ariana is hoping to find work with mammals in Southern Africa – something with plenty of fieldwork!
NAVIGATING THE WILDLIFE SPACE
The field of wildlife science, conservation and management is huge and diverse – like the many species of flora and fauna that are encompassed within it. Finding your passions and direction within this space can be both challenging and exciting – and something that is often continual throughout your career journey.
Starting your training or studies in the field and then getting your foot in the door for paid employment are important steps early on but still require a whole lot of soul searching and trial and error, but when you put in the time and the thought – it can help you down the track. Ariana explains:
“It’s been quite a back-and-forth journey, but it’s been a fairly easy transition for me from lab- to field-work as I found something that fit perfect to me”
Ariana has always taken the route of finding and then following what she loves and pivoting, or undergoing transitions as they come up. She says –
“I’m pretty excited that it’s worked out as well as it did, and as I come up to a similar crossroad, I’m excited to see what’s coming next – be it a PhD, wildlife work in the field or something else”
Ariana’s number one advice for anyone pursuing a career in the wildlife space is sticking with it.
“Sometimes jobs don’t come easy, or you’re expected to do a lot of unpaid work beforehand, so it’s important to have the passion for what you’re doing and then something you need to stick with to get much of anywhere”
And Ariana’s main advice is stick with it!
“My main advice is always to stick with it: if you’re passionate about it, find something that looks like you’ll enjoy it and then stick with it and don’t let people get you down.”
On her first day at university Ariana had professors showing her around campus who said “yeah, none of you will ever find jobs in this industry” – which may have been their experience – but it doesn’t help anyone!
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
Ariana is all about science communication – be it through wildlife photography, through her social media accounts like Instagram, through her role as a tour guide at the zoo or through her involvement with Mammalz.tv, an online platform for hosting live-streamed nature-themed videos and events. Ariana is always busy talking to people about the beauty and importance of nature!
“During COVID lockdowns, I watched a lot of live YouTube and other live nature events online – a fascinating and exciting way to stay in contact with fieldwork when you can’t be there in person”
“It’s like, you’re not there, but you’re there and although you’re physically far away, you’re watching and able to speak with the scientists and other viewers and engage in the project”
Ariana is a massive advocate for live-streamed nature videos for promoting wildlife conservation and sharing important work with people both inside and outside the traditional wildlife community. Live videos are a great way of involving people in field work in a way that’s easy and accessible – but doesn’t require them to travel vast distances or brave uncomfortable conditions. It allows them to engage with scientists and see a much more authentic, less constructed view of ecology in action to help people relate to it, and see a more realistic side of working with wildlife.
“A documentary that’s usually cut perfectly is awesome but you don’t always see how long that took and how, how hard that work is behind it. Often a 40-minute documentary takes 4 years to create!”
MAINTAINING WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Although it can certainly be challenging at times to maintain a healthy work-life balance when you’re a hectic student or busy working a job in an often-underfunded/under-staffed field like this one. But Ariana has three great tips for striking more balance with a wild life:
- Organise things to look forward to (it could be a as big as a trip away somewhere, or as small as ordering your favourite take-out Friday, or downloading a TV program to watch)
- Watch live-nature videos to be in the field virtually without being there physically.
- Have a hobby and make time for it – for Ariana, this is wildlife photography
KEEP IN TOUCH
Want to hear more from Ariana? Tune into the podcast to listen to our conversation. You can follow her adventures on Instagram or check out Mammalz on their discord here.
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