Western Washington University - Bachelor of Arts in English Literature
University of Idaho - Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Meghan Camp is a girl who isn't afraid to follow her heart. After working at Sears as a retail manager, despite receiving several promotions, Meghan realized the job just didn't fulfill her. But an interest in ecology and the natural world did. Meghan decided to go back to school and attended Washington State University. While there, she started getting her hands in everywhere she could — from volunteering to care for captive mule deer to caring for grizzly bears. If you've ever wondered if there's more out there for you then a hum drum job that just doesn't fit right, we hope you find inspiration in Meghan's words. When she's not working Meghan loves spending time with her husband and family, traveling and mountain biking.
Even when something seems like it is too hard or impossible, if you stick with it, you might not get exactly what you want, but you will still get something.
How did you discover your current job?
The road to my current job had a few detours in it. After graduating from college with a degree in English Literature, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I ended up working at Sears as a retail manager. I did well in that career and received several promotions within the company; however, I was very unhappy and felt unfulfilled by my job. I have always been fascinated by ecology and the natural world, and I enjoyed hiking, camping and viewing wildlife. After six years of working in a career that brought me nothing but stress and unhappiness, I started looking into a career in the field of wildlife biology.
I quickly realized that even entry-level positions required a degree in wildlife or a related field. After some serious soul searching, at the age of 26, I sold my condo, left my job at Sears and went back to school at Washington State University. I put my heart and soul into my career change; I strived to get good grades and took advantage of every opportunity to gain experience. While I was attending college, I volunteered wherever I could in wildlife-related positions. I volunteered to care for captive mule deer at the Washington State University Wild Ungulate Facility and to care for grizzly bears at the Bear Research Center.
After proving to be a dedicated, hard worker, I was hired as a wildlife technician at the Wild Ungulate Facility where I worked with captive mule deer, providing basic care, as well as assisting with research projects both at the facility and in the field. The professor who I worked for also oversaw the Small Mammal Research Facility. She hired me as a technician to maintain a captive population of endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits. That job put me in the position to find my current job at the University of Idaho. Around the same time that I was scheduled to graduate, the University of Idaho needed a graduate research assistant to study pygmy rabbits in Montana. A professor at the University of Idaho knew me because I had worked with the captive pygmy rabbits and she offered me the position.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
That is one of the things that I love about my job -- I don’t have a typical day. Every day is different. During the fall and winter I spend time in the office formulating research questions and planning data collection and analysis methods. I also spend time analyzing data that I have already collected and working on summarizing the outcome of my research in papers for publication in scientific journals. I assist with research that is taking place with the captive population of pygmy rabbits at Washington State University, so I spend some mornings working with the rabbits. Because I am working on my master’s degree, I also take classes and work on writing my master’s thesis.
I spend the spring and summer at field sites collecting data. Currently, that involves capturing pygmy rabbits, doing behavioral observations, and habitat measurements. During the field season, I live in a camper and travel to remote locations in Montana. My days can be very long, and days off are often few and far between. The weather and working conditions can be variable as well.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job is contributing to the body of knowledge on wildlife ecology and discovering and documenting previously unknown phenomenon. Ideally, my research will help ensure the persistence of threatened, endangered and sensitive species.
The most challenging part of my job is the statistical data analyses. It can often require complicated computer programs. However, I am continually learning and improving in this area. This is where collaboration with a statistician comes in really handy.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
The biggest sacrifice is being away from home for long periods of time. Last summer I only saw my husband twice in three months.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Don’t give up and stay focused. Even when something seems like it is too hard or impossible, if you stick with it, you might not get exactly what you want, but you will still get something. In this field, any information or data is better than nothing.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
Women in my field have to work twice as hard as men to be recognized for their expertise or contributions. Women have to prove themselves before they can be taken seriously, whereas men are often times automatically taken seriously.
Who are your role models?
Dr. Lisa Shipley at Washington State University. She is an amazing scientist, a mother and the ultimate multi-tasker. She is often working on multiple research projects, and she teaches classes and runs the Wild Ungulate Facility and the Small Mammal Research Facility.
Reid Camp, my husband and a fisheries biologist. He is the one of the hardest workers I know and a very thorough and detail-oriented scientist. I have a tendency to get anxious and stressed about things, and he is always so calm. He always goes into the field with a solid plan of attack. He has taught me to stay calm and focused and to always plan ahead.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
A quote by Louis Pasteur: "Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: My strength lies solely in my tenacity."
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Work hard. In the beginning of your career, don’t say "no" to any job. That job will eventually lead you to a better one. I started by collecting deer urine and fecal samples without pay, and that job gave me the opportunity to meet the person who I work for today. Do what you love and what makes you happy, and do it with passion. Always look for ways to improve both personally and in your relationships with other people.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I want to continue working in academia, because I think it is more research-oriented than some government wildlife agencies. In five years, I will hopefully have my Ph.D. and be working on a post doctoral research project. I would love to do research on songbirds.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
When I am in the field, walking through the wilderness, I look around at the vast beauty, I see pronghorn and deer in the distance and I hear birds singing, and I think, “I can’t believe I am getting paid to do this!”