Looking to the Future

Jaguar by Cmart29. Public Domain image, retrieved from Pixabay.

First, I must apologize for not being as active on the blogosphere as normal. I have already stated that I am currently writing a master’s thesis on wildlife television, which consumes much of my time.

In addition, last week I was at The Wildlife Society’s 25th annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I am fortunate in that it was within 45 minutes of my house, saving me from expensive hotel and airfare. Still, the conference kept me away from the blog more than normal.

I do not regret it, however. I learned a great deal and met many extraordinary people at the conference, some of whom you will read about in the coming weeks. I will also be sharing considerable information about a truly unique species of wild cat that inhabits tropical regions of Asia. More on that soon.

There are many smaller wild cat species that are terribly under-studied. Seen here is Felis chaus, the jungle cat. Jungle Cat by David Raju. CC BY-SA 4.0

Finally, I had two conversations on the last day of the conference that inspired me to look to the future. During the summer I had been looking at PhD programs dealing with topics related to science communication/media studies, so that I could learn how to talk about the topics I care about in ways that positively impact people’s lives. But none of my inquiries led anywhere.

Part of the problem is that what I want to do for my doctoral dissertation/thesis is unorthodox by American standards. Several Canadian universities offer doctoral thesis options that match my intended project design, but they lack faculty members whose interests closely align with my own.

I had therefore decided to give up on academia. My plan after graduation was to get a job – any job – and maybe pursue freelance writing on the side. However, the two conversations I had at The Wildlife Society conference encouraged me to keep looking.

I also had some great espresso at Rising Star Coffee Roasters in downtown Cleveland. I took pictures, but they turned out terribly. Cups you Won’t be Able to Buy Soon by Mark. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I am still not convinced that a doctoral program is where I belong. I find the emphasis on tradition, precedence, and hierarchy that pervades some academic institutions to be nauseating. Nor do I care what other scholars think of my work. I am not after tenure and accolades: I want whatever I produce to genuinely benefit the general public.

Granted, the skills and knowledge I would acquire through doctoral study would help me to be a better environmental and science communicator. But I could likely attain the same level of competency, if more slowly, through the time-honored method of learning-by-doing.

So, we will see. I will continue looking around at doctoral programs, in case I find one that suits me. What this means for you is that you should not expect my online presence to increase much until after Christmas. I will continue to post at least once per week (though that is not a promise), and visit other people’s blogs when I can.

31 Thoughts

  1. These are conversations I have in my head almost everyday, especially the PhD part. You’re master’s thesis sounds so exciting! I haven’t heard of many such topics being taken up by students back home in India. I think the key is to learn from the experience of other researchers in the same field as us; how they have progressed in their lives, what helped them decide between a job or a PhD programme. That is what seems to be helping me decide though. Good luck my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Tamanna! I’d happily study in India for a few years to help start the field of ‘environmental media studies’ there! What a fantastic place that would be to explore how human beings interact with the natural world.

      There are several PhD programs in fields like ‘science communication’ and ‘media studies’ in the US, but American universities seem to be exclusively focused on mass-producing college professors. I don’t want to be a college professor; I want to create works that are designed to be read/viewed by the general public. That doesn’t seem to be an option in most communications PhD programs in the US.

      I’ve not yet found any researchers who are doing what I’d like to do, but I have run into one or two filmmakers who have similar motivations as myself. It seems like they had to go their own way and acquire their skills through experience, which is an option. But I want to have access to all the latests science on how to communicate in ways that affect people positively, hence why it’d help me to be connected to an academic institution. So, we’ll see.

      I wish you the best of luck on your deliberations too! Please let me know if there’s any way I can help, or if you just need someone to talk to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Its amazing to see that you’re so clear on what you want and have some idea of how to progress towards that goal. I remember when I finished my Master’s, I ran in all directions possible. I wanted to work on olive ridley turtles, tigers, elephants, climate change, REDD+ and a whole bunch of other things. And I too was deliberating at that time whether to jump into a PhD programme or work for a few years. In retrospect, I’m glad I chose the latter.

        I’ve been working now for over five years and I strongly believe it is because of my work experience that today I am quite clear about my research interests and how to go about it. Luckily for you, you’re already there! I would definitely propose working first before jumping into a PhD because you’ll learn more about your research interests, how to go about it and the impact it can have.

        I wish I had funds to support your work in India! Science communication is one thing that I often find myself struggling with, because we don’t emphasize it enough in our country. So I will be getting in tough as regards to that!

        P.S- Why don’t you look at Australian Universities? If my understanding is correct, they focus a lot on science communication.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Thanks for such a fast response!

          Before the conference last week I’d made up my mind to work first before pursuing a PhD. Not because I needed time to decide what I wanted to do – I know EXACTLY what I want to do – but because I need money; I’ve spent literally everything on my master’s program. I’ll probably still end up working right away, but I’ll look around at PhD programs a little longer.

          Haha, I don’t have funds to support my work in India either. Maybe one day I will. Your idea of looking at Australian Universities is a good one though, and something I’ve been thinking about for a few days. In general, Australian universities seem to be more open to innovation and new directions than American ones. The only problem is that I have no idea how I’d be able to afford traveling to, let alone studying in, Australia. I’m sure solutions exist, I just don’t know what they are right now.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Well, I can’t say that working will guarantee a ton of money! I’ve been working for so long and I still think that I will never be able to save up for a PhD programme. The key is then to build your profile and apply for a scholarship.

            I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to go about applications to prep myself. I think the key is to work on your publications and enhance your skill sets (particularly if you are jumping into something that requires you to know R, GIS, etc). So publish as much as you can. As far as I recall, most scholarships, look closely at the number and quality of publications. This is what I’ve been working on this year.

            Hope this helps! You can always reach out if you need to talk something out :)

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Working won’t guarantee a ton of money, but any income would be an improvement over my current situation.

            This comment did help. Along with my own ponderings over the past few days, it’s pushed me towards giving up on the PhD option for now. I really don’t care about scholarly publications at all; I have absolutely no desire to write for other academics. The general public is my intended audience, which will make it extremely hard for me to get scholarships. So, for the time being it looks like I’ll need to make my own way outside of academia.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi… thank you for your blogging! I am interested in Jaguars as I’m developing a portfolio of investment projects that help protect Jaguars. I see from your latest blog that you are wondering about your future, and just came across this ad from Panthera in its newsletter from today… :

    We’re Hiring!

    Our NYC headquarters is looking to hire a Digital Marketing Director who can help Panthera create a global online movement to help save the world’s disappearing wild cats. If you’re a seasoned digital marketer looking to put your skills to use for wild cat conservation, check out our position.

    Learn More →

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Sid, thank you for your comment! I’d actually been looking at the Communications and Digital Content Manager open at Panthera’s office for a while now. I don’t meet their 5-7 years non-profit experience yet, but I feel like I could handle all of their other job requirements. I’d likely have less technical expertise than they’d be looking for in an ideal candidate, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I can acquire new skills quickly when I have to. So I guess it wouldn’t hurt for me to send in an application.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Josh,
    First of all, congrats on continuing to listen to what your inner voice is telling you. I believe it happens for a reason. While I’ve never been involved in academia, I can say (from my experience) that corporate life is also quite similar — very frustrating for truly innovative, passionate individuals.

    I think it’s great that you are continuing to explore other opportunities with an open mind. I know it’s frustrating, but when you carve out your path, it will definitely be Yours and yours only.

    Best wishes as always,

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes definitely! My husband & I are tired of the corporate life (and we’ve paid our dues), and starting to think of other options. There is always the fear of the unknown (and we’re careful to not make any rash decisions) but we have only one life — so we must live it! Who says adults can’t have dreams? ;)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you’ve already worked in the corporate world for a while, then maybe now is the best time to make a change? Obviously I have no idea what your situation is like, but you might have the resources to better absorb the inevitable challenges involved with changing directions – at least when compared to someone who’s fresh out of university. Keep dreaming!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I admire the passion and dedication you have toward this, most people would cave in and just go with the options on the table but then where’s the good in that when you can’t really express the true purpose of your quest.

    From my point of view your thesis is going to be a masterpiece, as challenging and frustrating as it can be sometimes, It’s well worth the effort.

    I wish you the best & I hope it all works out.

    Ps- the picture is good, those coffee cups do look like eyeballs 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Josh, no need to apologize for being less active!! It’s completely understandable and a master’s thesis sounds very exciting. Good luck with whatever decision you make!!! If you ever change your mind and want to do your PhD, you can do that some years down the road, don’t need to rush and make the decision now. :) Wishing you the best in everything. :D

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Finding PhD programs for unique environmental programs is so tough. I couldn’t find ANY that focused on sustainable water treatment for impoverished communities when I was looking at grad schools so I settled on a program that basically let me craft my own degree. Can’t wait to see where you end up! I’ll be looking out for the next blog post on it :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found plenty of PhD programs in the US about the topic I’m most interested in (environmental media) with faculty members whose interests overlap with mine, but none of them offer the type of dissertation I’d like to pursue; the opposite is true for all the Canadian universities I looked at (the right kinds of dissertations, but not the right faculty interests). So for now I’ll just wait. It’s good to be flexible at the master’s level, but since PhD’s are so time-consuming and hard I’m not overly willing to compromise.

      Liked by 1 person

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