Our Ecampus students come from every corner of the country. This month we are excited to hear from Floridian Suzy Roebling, a field ecologist and biological scientist who specializes in wading birds. In her narrative below, she describes her life and work in Everglades National Park.

Suzy Roebling

I am a second generation native south Floridian, growing up in the Florida Keys.  My dad was a “‘gladesman,” and an adventurer.  We were always in a boat – either in the Everglades, fishing off shore, or free diving on the coral reef.  You could say that the way we grew up ultimately influenced my career path.

That path was not a straight one.  It was not until years later – after earning an alternative BS degree and working as an administrative assistant in various offices, as a manager of a marine construction business,  and even running a bed and breakfast, that I decided to follow my passion to work close to wildlife in wild places within our spectacular ecosystems.  That time arrived after the volunteering to help with marine mammal, wild bird, and sea turtle rescues, rehabs and releases here in the Keys.  I felt compelled to return to school and become educated in the biological sciences.

It was because of General Chemistry that I “discovered” Oregon State University!  The local community college offered biology courses, but no chemistry.  Another student told me I could take it online there.  Upon investigation, I realized that I could acquire a BS degree online in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, with the three chemistry courses integral to this degree.  I enrolled in this excellent degree program, and am slowly making my way through it – with only eight more courses to go.

Adult Spoonbills
Adult Spoonbills

Volunteer and intern experiences enriched my knowledge and resume, and I am fortunate to be working as a wildlife biologist while finishing up studies for this degree.  I am employed as a field ecologist with Audubon – Everglades Science Center, and as a biological scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  During this past nesting season (December – May), most days found me out piloting a boat in Florida Bay in Everglades National Park to survey and monitor wading birds – especially roseate spoonbills and reddish egrets – whose populations have been in decline for decades.

To live and work in such beauty and tranquility is an honor.  Every trip is an adventure – many days there are young sharks, and sometimes bow riding dolphins, basking sea turtles, and the occasional crocodile out amongst the islands.

In the fall, I look forward to the third Chemistry course.  I have happily discovered this sequence to be both a challenging and fascinating study, and definitively applicable to the natural world that is my workplace.

Big thanks to Suzy for sharing her story!!

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