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Melisa Cambron Perez ’15
How did you explore your interests and decide on a major?
Entering college I always knew I wanted to major in biology but during my freshman and sophomore year I hadn’t really found an area within biology that I was extremely passionate it. It wasn’t until my junior year that I really grew interested in ecology and environmental studies and knew that this path would also allow me to incorporate my Spanish minor, as well.
Describe a moment or experience you had in college that helped define your career path.
One of the key parts of my job conducting habitat restoration programs is to be able to lead projects on restoration to both specialists and people with no experience. It was during my time as New Member Educator in Kappa Alpha Theta and as a Forester Guide that I found the confidence and power in myself to take charge of a group in order to plan and achieve a common goal.
What steps did you take in college to prepare for your career?
During my last two years at Lake Forest College I tried to take as many ecology related courses that I could find in order to benefit my career interest. I took Plant Biology which allowed me to intern at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and I decided to study abroad in Costa Rica during the Spring of 2014 and observed the movement of Choloepus didactylus in a reduced habitat adjacent to a cacao plantation in Northeastern Costa Rica in order to study the effects of habitat fragmentation on the two-toed sloth’s lifestyle. I spent my final year learning how to use GIS and review environmental papers, but I also become involved in Ecomyths and assisted in the organization of the Annual “Naturally Funny Gala” which was an eco-inspired comedy show.
What role did your internship or research experience play in shaping your career path?
During my internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden I was able to help researched the effects habitat fragmentation had on prairie plants but I spent most of this time in a lab. I knew that while I found what I was doing interesting, sitting in a lab or office all day just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be conducting this research outdoors in the field.
What would you recommend Lake Forest College students considering a career in your field do to prepare?
I would say that even if you want to stick to your passion, don’t be afraid to diversity and be a jack of all trades. Try to learn as much as possible and go out there and explore. Environmental work is very seasonal and the more you can learn throughout the years about what exactly you want to do in life the better.
How did the Career Advancement Center and the Forester community give you an edge on taking your first steps after graduation?
The benefits of a small liberal arts college is the relationship you can have with your professors during and after you graduate. Professor Menke and Professor Westley really instilled eased in myself to stay passionate in my field and have confidence in what I want to do during the times I would go into their office to ask questions or just catch up.
What have you found the most rewarding in your career and life after graduation?
Working with environmental non-profits has been the most rewarding to me because these are organizations that tackle issues affecting the environmental world by also including as many community members as possible though educational programs and advocacy work, so meeting new people almost daily has open my mind to various new ideas and beliefs about the environmental world.