What can I do with a degree in Wildlife?

It’s important to consider how your undergraduate degree will help launch your career—by getting a job or into graduate school. HSU Wildlife has an excellent reputation, and demand for our graduates is very high (see example alumni below). Recent survey results indicate that over 80% of our graduates are employed after graduation, and 14% go on to graduate school. A survey by the National Science Foundation showed that among public, non-PhD granting institutions in the U.S., HSU is ranked # 1 in the percentage of undergraduates who go on to earn a PhD in disciplines related to biological sciences.

Of those that are employed, roughly half work as wildlife biologists in the field for state and federal natural resource agencies (such as the US Fish & Wildlife Service, California Dept. of Fish & Game, National Park Service, etc.). The other half are employed in a variety of settings—for conservation organizations (such as Wildlife Conservation Society, Ducks Unlimited, or The Nature Conservancy), private ecological consulting firms (such as HT Harvey & Associates), private timber companies (such as Green Diamond Resource Company), or zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers.

State and federal data suggest that jobs in wildlife-related fields are on the rise. California’s Economic Development Department predicts jobs appropriate for graduates of HSU’s wildlife program to be among top 50 fastest-growing jobs in the state over the next decade. The Department of Labor predicts that wildlife-related job will grow 22% over the next decade, which is 9-15% faster than the average growth among all jobs in the country.

A sample of recent Humboldt Wildlife alumni

  • Christina Varian (B.S)

    Christina pictured working in the field. A typical work day consists of climbing palm trees, capturing an array of vertebrates and invertebrates, including the kissing bugs, and most importantly getting bitten by tropical insects!

    Christina studied in the Wildlife Department while attending HSU from 2008-2011. During her undergrad career, she developed a strong interest in tropical wildlife diseases which led her to participate in a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) with the Organization for Tropical Studies for two summers. In 2012 she started her PhD with the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine: Pathology, where she currently studies vector-borne disease ecology. Her focus is on Chagas disease in Central Panama. Chagas disease primarily occurs in rural locations of Latin America and is caused by a blood parasite which is transmitted by a "kissing bug" vector. In Panama, increased risk for disease transmission is associated with deforestation and reasons for this remain largely understudied.

    Christina's project explores the relationship between habitat disturbance and disease transmission by studying the changes in microhabitat characteristics and species communities as they respond to varying levels of landscape disturbance and how these changes influence reservoir host and vector dynamics.

    Christina hopes to explore not only different means of vector control and monitoring strategies, but she is actively working toward connecting habitat conservation and disease prevention and awareness in collaboration with the local communities that she works with.

  • Vitek Jirinec (B.S.)

    Vitek in the field with one of his study subjects.

    After completing his honors project on roosting ecology of migratory birds in Jamaican coffee farms with Dr. Matt Johnson in 2010, Vitek Jirinec moved to Virginia to continue to study bird movement for his master's thesis at the College of William & Mary. Resources necessary for wildlife to survive and reproduce are often irregularly distributed across the landscape, which might explain occurrence patterns for species such as the declining migratory Wood Thrush. Vitek uses radio telemetry to test whether habitat structure, food availability, or both, explain frequency of Wood Thrush space use in human-altered coastal Virginia. Research is ongoing, but preliminary results from first year's data suggest frequency of use strongly correlates with availability of leaf-litter invertebrates, particularly worms. In addition to the above, Vitek investigates where thrushes roost in relation to their diurnal home ranges and whether high densities of the overpopulated white-tailed deer alter local forest bird communities.

  • Dawn McCovey (B.S.)

    Here, Dawn is holding a young fisher kit. With Hoopa Valley Tribal Forestry, she also works with spotted owls, pileated woodpeckers, and black bears.

    I am a wildlife biologist for the Hoopa Valley Tribe. I am interested in creating awareness for people of all ages in my community regarding wildlife. I hope my effort will help to revive a reverence that my people have for wildlife, which is an integral part of our culture. I want to inspire young people to pursue related careers, as well as take up the endeavor of conservation, so that the legacy will continue. Staff members of HSU’s Wildlife Department inspired me with infectious enthusiasm, and encouraged me with acknowledgement of my personal aspirations.

  • Bob Pera

    Bob with his two partners: a truck and his dog. A wildlife degree is good preparation for a career as a game warden.

    I am a Game Warden for the California Department of Fish and Game working in El Dorado County. Game Wardens have full peace officer powers, and their jurisdiction extends anywhere in the state. In my current position, I am tasked with enforcing all laws of the State of California with emphasis on hunting and fishing regulations as well as habitat protection and pollution. The classes in the Wildlife Program really gave me a good foundation and working knowledge of wildlife management principles. The program is top notch and anyone thinking of working in the wildlife field need not look any further than HSU.

  • Carmen Vanbianchi (B.S.)

    Carmen is holding a young lynx kitten. Some students, like Carmen, work seasonal field projects after graduating to gain experience in new and exciting places before going on to a permanent job or graduate school.

    Since graduating from Humboldt State University, I have traveled North America working on seasonal field projects. Currently I am in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado working with lynx for the Department of Wildlife. On any given day I am hiking in the mountains tracking lynx and on my favorite days I am visiting lynx dens to tag week old kittens. Thanks to the Humboldt Wildlife program I can identify the animal tracks I find and identify all the birds I see along the way. I also know how to collect high-quality data and I can make my way back out of the woods with a map and compass.

  • Melissa Reyes Blundell (B.S.)

    Melissa has spent several summers working out in the field finding and observing nests of threatened and endangered birds.

    The HSU Wildlife Department provided me with a solid foundation in conservation, management, and ecology. After graduating I began working for the United States Geological Survey as a Biological Science Technician, where I am currently employed. In this position I examine demographic parameters such as survival rates, productivity, and dispersal (topics thoroughly covered in class) of the endangered Least Bell's Vireo. The Wildlife faculty and staff strongly encouraged me to gain outside research experience. As a result, I was enrolled in an undergraduate research program (NSF REU). In this program, I further developed the skills I acquired in class (such as designing and conducting a research project, writing a scientific manuscript, and identifying bird species). Recently, I was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation which will greatly assist me in pursuing a PhD.

  • John Benson (B.S.)

    John with a wolf pup. With a BS in Wildlife from Humboldt State, John has been able to pursue his interests in carnivore ecology and conservation.

    I am a PhD candidate at Trent University in Canada where I am studying hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes. Currently, I am spending 3 years in the field capturing, tracking, and visiting the dens and kill-sites of wolves and wolf-coyote hybrids in order to gain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of interbreeding between these species. Before starting my PhD, I also completed an M.S. that involved reintroducing black bears to portions of Louisiana and worked as a state research biologist studying Florida panthers. My approach to wildlife research is to pursue interesting questions grounded in ecological theory with the goal of providing results that will aid in the conservation of wildlife species and habitats. The HSU wildlife program provided an excellent foundation for this approach with rigorous training in basic ecology that never let me lose sight of the goal of applying ecological research to conservation and management.

  • Sean Matthews (B.S., M.S.)

    Sean with a captured & marked fisher. Fishers are large carnivores in the weasel family. Sean's work is helping us understand how to conserve these animals in western forests.

    I am Associate Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, a non-profit conservation organization, and a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I began my dissertation work in 2004 in collaboration with the Hoopa Valley Tribe to assess critical elements of fisher ecology. Prior to my work on fisher in Hoopa, I worked on human-black bear interactions in Yosemite National Park. I completed a M.S. and a B.S. in Wildlife, both at HSU. The Wildlife Program at Humboldt State University provides students a rare blend of in-class, laboratory and field experiences in wildlife management, conservation, and research taught by inspiring instructors who are also actively engaged in their field of study. The firm foundation I was able to build at Humboldt State continues to serve me in my professional and academic pursuits.

  • Hanna Mounce (B.S.)

    Hanna with a Maui Parrotbill. Many of Hawaii's fantastic honeycreepers are critically endangered, and Hanna's work is is focused on helping recover their populations.

    While an undergraduate at HSU, I was introduced to numerous avian monitoring techniques and made the connections for several of my first field jobs in ornithology. Continuing in avian conservation, I am currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Kent while working for the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii as the Avian Conservation Research Facilitator for the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. My job involves the designing and implementing of a research and management program to recover endangered and critically endangered Hawaiian Honeycreepers at remote rainforest sites on the Island of Maui. My major duties include conducting and facilitating research on the behavior, population and breeding ecology, and recovery actions for honeycreepers as well as hiring and coordinating logistics for a field research team among multiple sites, paper writing, and genetics lab work. In addition to getting to capture, band and follow amazing endangered birds around the forest, I also get to work in one of the most pristine forests in the Pacific.

  • Dominic Bachman (B.S., M.S.)

    Dom with a Northern Pintail. A waterfowler his whole life, Dom has been able to combine his lifelong interests in hunting with a career in wildlife management.

    I Graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife in 2005 then returned and received my M.S. in Wildlife in 2008. Humboldt State Wildlife Department helped jumpstart my career through all the connections the professors had, which helped me get various seasonal wildlife jobs in all of the western states and Canada before I graduated. Through HSU's student wildlife conclave courses and other activities, I attended research seminars and meetings in Canada, Jamaica, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Vermont, and North Dakota. All of this was paid for by HSU programs and I met hundreds of other young wildlife professionals at all these meetings which helped my career greatly. I was offered a permanent Job with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service the same day I received my M.S. degree. Currently I work as a wildlife biologist for the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge in Northeastern California where I work with private landowners to do upland and wetland habitat restoration on their farms and ranches. I also get to have a blast doing wildlife monitoring, banding Sandhill cranes and waterfowl on the refuge.

  • Amanda Auston (B.S.)

    Amanda with a white handed gibbon at the Sequoia Park Zoo. Though the Wildlife curriculum at HSU generally focuses on animals in their natural habitats, it also includes training in physiology, behavior, and wildlife diseases, enables our graduates to pursue careers in wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary degrees, and zookeeping.

    My experience at HSU had a huge influence on me as an individual, and my understanding of wildlife, which has carried through to my role as executive director of a wildlife rehabilitation organization, the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, and as a zookeeper for Sequoia Park Zoo. The wildlife program gave me the knowledge of avian and mammalian taxonomy, conservation biology, wildlife/habitat relationships, and animal behavior that I needed to successfully care for captive wildlife. Basically, learning what factors affect the survival of individuals and species in the wild gave me the ability to understand the needs of animals in a rehabilitation and zoological setting. The wildlife program opened my eyes to an amazing and complex world, an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.

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