Mentor Interview: Regional Biologist

MENTOR INTERVIEW
My name is Santiago Z, I am an Environmental Science technology student, and far more than being an environment student I consider myself an environmental activist because of the help I put into my everyday habits of life, so that my footprint isn’t so much that effective to harm our world’s environment.

My mentor is Mr. Ricardo Zambrano, he is a Regional Biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he is a wonderful professional who is
perfect for being my mentor because of his experience in the field of the environment and specifically his work with endangered species. Some of Ricardo’s experience is to have worked at the Yellowstone National Park from 1990-1991which I find outstanding, he radio-tracked coyotes and studied their behavior. He also worked as a sea turtle biologist in Mexico’s Yucatan
Peninsula from 1991 to 1994, there he researched and conserved endangered sea turtles.
Currently working with non hunted endangered species he focuses primarily on wildlife ranging from butterflies, birds, mammals, and herpetofauna, he researches, monitors and conserves wildlife. He has Bachelors in biology education from the University of California and a Masters degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from Florida Atlantic University. His internship was studying the behavior of California Sea Lions and as a County Park Ranger. He did many volunteering jobs before he started to earn money in the field, one was as a wildlife rehabilitator in Sea World in Orlando, Florida. Another volunteer job was researching chimpanzees in Africa also using the GIS (Geographic Information System) tool. Below is our conversation about this exciting profession:
What are the biggest challenges that you overcame in this position?
Some of the biggest challenges are definitely first of all the pay range in this field, its not easy to start in this field, and of course having to deal with people that don’t care at all about the environment and its wildlife some of them include politicians and owners of huge companies.Another challenge is trying to convince people of what is right to save wildlife.

What skills do you use every day and how did you acquire them?
Some of the skills that you need for this career is to have good writing skills, good
communication skills, public speaking, knowledge of the habitats and the wildlife species, knowledge of the GIS tool, statistic software, genetics, botany and also recommended to know how to drive 4 wheelers, 4×4 trucks and boats.
What makes for a perfect day in your field/job/profession?
A perfect day in my profession is a day out doing field work, going out to different reserves to research, collect data and help species survive in their habitats.
What keeps you doing this job every day?
Definitely my awareness for the environment and my fight to keep helping to save the endangered species in Florida.
How do you maintain your professional skills or certifications? What professional association do you belong to and how do you interact with them?
This profession, for the most part, does not require certification although the Wildlife Society does have a Certified Biologist program. However, few institutions or employers require that. But in this career it is important to maintain your professional skills by keeping up with current research, techniques, software and hardware. Subscribing to scientific journals or reading the latest scientific literature on the subjects relevant to my work is one way. I will go through some
of the articles to see if there are any new research methods or techniques or equipment useful for that work.

For example, radio-tracking animals has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be that all radio-tracking was done with VHF transmitter signals (similar to walkie-talkies). Now transmitters use satellite receivers or GPS receivers or even cell phone towers to track wildlife.

I belong to the Waterbird Society, The Wildlife Society, Audubon, and the Sierra Club but there are many more. I attend their conferences or meetings regularly and I am on the Board of Directors for a couple.
How has your opinion of this field changes since you started or since you were a student?
My opinion has not really changed. It is still an exciting field but as I mentioned quite challenging. It has gotten more difficult in one sense since there is always more development/construction but it has also gotten better since more and more people are becoming concerned with the environment.
What led you to pick this field?
I liked working outdoors and working with animals. As a kid my family took us camping a lot and that helped me appreciate nature and wildlife. Growing up in southern California I was able to regularly go to the mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests.

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