Breaking Through the Conservation Career Trap

Episode 104
36m | Mar 6, 2024

This week’s episode of the Fancy Scientist podcast was inspired by an extremely honest and vulnerable article by Georgina Mayhew called The Conservation Career Trap. When I posted this in my Getting a Job in Wildlife Biology Facebook group, it sparked an overwhelming response from others sharing similar sentiments or fears that the same would happen to them. 

Some standout comments included: 

  • “Everyone I speak to in the industry is frustrated, feels taken advantage of because they feel the job is seen as ‘a passion, not a skill’ and the only way up is filling a dead man’s shoes,” 
  • “I just finished my masters & halfway through I felt like I made a mistake pursuing this field. I wish I could turn back time and re-evaluate what I could study & do instead realistically, I’ve had to give up on my dream and I am no longer working toward a career in science at all.
  • “Totally relatable! I’ve had to give up on my dream and I am no longer working toward a career in science at all. Unpaid debts and degree unused.”
  • “I think this is true in my experience. Too many leadership/higher management sucking the life out of the team…”
  • “I agree with it. I’ve given up on the life long dream and I’m struggling with what to do next. I had to choose what I needed to survive.”

Georgina’s post highlights the struggles many face - from the romanticized vision of working with charismatic creatures in exotic locations to the realities of day-to-day life in working in conservation, and the harsh truths of rejection, debt, and unpaid volunteering. In this podcast, I explore the topics brought up by the Conservation Career Trap and validate some of the hidden struggles that many conservationists face. I also explore the emotional toll that this career path can take and the importance of maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth separate from job success.

But here's the twist: being aware of these very real challenges doesn't mean you should abandon your dreams. Instead, it's about empowering you with knowledge of what it looks like on the other side and strategies to navigate these obstacles when they arise.

This episode is a MUST-listen for anyone considering a career in wildlife conservation. You'll gain valuable insights into the challenges you will face and learn strategies for overcoming them. By the end of this podcast, you'll be better prepared to navigate the Conservation Career Trap and pursue your passion with realistic expectations and a solid plan.

Specifically, we discussed:

  • The reality of the Conservation Career Trap and its implications for aspiring conservationists
  • Understanding expectations vs. reality when it comes to this field
  • The importance of awareness and open discussion about the challenges in the conservation field
  • Practical tips and strategies for overcoming barriers and advancing in your conservation career
  • The power of MINDSET, mentorship, and support in navigating the path to a successful career
  • And MORE!!

I’m Dr. Stephanie Manka (formerly Schuttler), a wildlife biologist of nearly 20 yrs with 20+ peer-reviewed scientific publications, author of the book Getting a Job in Wildlife Biology: What It’s Like and What You Need to Know ( and founder of Fancy Scientist. My channel and the Fancy Scientist LLC is dedicated to connecting people to science and nature, breaking stereotypes of, and empowering scientists. I help aspiring and struggling wildlife biologists get the right training so they can get jobs, live out their life’s purpose and make a difference in this world.

Sign up for my next free job training: 

Want to learn about cool animals, conservation, and get tips about careers in wildlife biology, science, and more? Subscribe to my channel: and join my email list: 

I’d love to meet you. Connect with me on social media:





Join the “Getting a Job in Wildlife Biology” Facebook group to connect with other aspiring wildlife biologists, post your questions and get free advice:

Listen to the Fancy Scientist Podcast: 



Audio Player Image
Fancy Scientist with Dr. Stephanie Manka