Job Title: Herpetology Lab Technician
Type of Company: I work for a natural sciences museum in Raleigh, NC.
Education: BA, Cultural Anthropology
Previous Experience: None
Job Tasks: I work in the research laboratory at a natural sciences museum. The museum is a public institution, funded by the state, which promotes education, conservation, and research. Within the research and collections department, there are scientists who study fossils, living vertebrates and invertebrates. Most of their research is centered on wildlife in North Carolina, where the museum is located. My primary responsibility as a herpetology lab technician is to enter data from a specimen ledger into a computerized database. For each amphibian and reptile specimen in the lab, there is a record of what it is, where it was found, etc. This information is transferred into the database and the locality information is mapped and given geographic coordinates. Then, the database can be searched by various criteria (i.e. county or state, species, date) to allow scientists and researchers from all over the world to know what specimens we have and to be able to use the information for their work and studies.
Scientists may also request to borrow a specimen for their research. These specimens are used to describe species, define their geographic ranges, and provide information for conservation efforts. Because exploiting these animals as resources is a lively international trade, this is sensitive information and is not available to the general public.
The purpose of the database is to help further research to aid in the conservation and understanding of these animals and to leave a record of the area's natural history.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being surrounded by people whose primary interest is learning new things and bettering the natural world through understanding and conservation. I have the opportunity to learn a lot from my co-workers and surroundings.
However, sometimes entering data into a computer all day can become very monotonous and there are always mistakes no matter how careful I am. Luckily, I am able to take a break sometimes to assist in other tasks around the lab: caring for the live turtle or rearranging the specimen range.
Job Tips: Most people who want to be scientists and wildlife biologists will work as lab technicians first. Although it is sometimes boring, there is a lot to learn from it and it is the first step toward achieving the greater goal as a researcher. Here, you will learn necessary skills and understand the importance of keeping accurate and precise data in the field.
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