Bronco Spotlight: Abbie Bristol
Invasive Species Technician at Van Buren Conservation District
I organize, manage, and collaborate on conservation projects for Van Buren county. I am designing and implementing an invasive species management team to serve the SWxSW Corner Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (Van Buren, Berrien, and Cass counties).
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
Earth's biodiversity is diminishing at an alarming rate. Michigan is a unique place with incredible ecosystems, but has already experienced many intense losses. My job in planning and leading invasive species management is direct action against these losses. Educating the public on the immensity of the issue and the ever-looming worry that our best laid plans still fall short are daunting challenges. The invaluable experiences afforded to me by my college professors have landed me where I am now, but it feels as though I'm stepping blindly into a world without reliable course schedules and exam dates. I know this new world will be full of trials and mistakes, but my heart pounds for the victories that I am committed to seize.
What activities, resources, or people helped you prepare for your career?
I definitely utilize the organizational and time management skills I fostered throughout college, but the raw experience that I pull from for my job can largely be attributed to summer programs. There are so many summer programs for any major. From diversity and inclusion in the medical field to ecological work to political activism, most of my summers in college were spent learning, leading, and loving the new people around me -- and each experience provided either an acceptable or generous stipend, so I didn't also have to work. Every summer I learned more about what I did and did not want in a career. This combined with getting to know most of my professors through regular office hour visits or talks after class gave me the confidence and connections that got me to where I am today. Courses showed me what kind of worker I am, summer programs showed me what kind of work I like, and connecting with professors showed me what kind of work I could do.
What advice would you offer students to help them decide on a career path?
Seriously think about what makes you excited. Throughout the day, be sensitive to the things that get you excited. Looking back, I enjoyed counting coins and imagining stories for backyard animals. These childhood quirks are still very real for me today, but through expanding my knowledge of math and ecology, they have translated into meticulously managing finances/budgets and seeking to understand the complexities of ecosystems. Think about the things you used to enjoy as a child and try to zero in on the exact piece of it that got you excited about it. And then talk to passionate professors and grad students indifferent fields. Whose work are you most interested in, and why? If you are seeking a career that you want to enjoy and contribute to, try to figure out who you are and what you enjoy most.