30 years of Wildlife Career Advice: Interview with fisheries biologist Scott Putnam

Episode 89
37m | Nov 10, 2022

It’s no secret that the wildlife or conservation field can be competitive, and many of you have always asked me, “How do I get my foot in the door?” or “Is there any chance that I will get a permanent job in the future?” And my answer is always yes. If this is what you truly want, you can get it, but it will require strategy. Gone are the days of just getting a degree and a job quickly, which will require other things you might not know about and even thinking outside the box. 

Scott Putnam loves to give this kind of advice to students and entry-level job seekers. Scott has worked as a Regional Fisheries Biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for over thirty years. He spearheads monitoring anadromous fish in freshwater and their migration to and from saltwater, which requires remarkable fieldwork like snorkeling in beautiful rivers for hours. And you may have heard Scott’s name before. If you listened to podcast episode #86: Getting a Wildlife Career with NO Wildlife Experience: Interview with Ron Lewis, you’ll recognize that Scot is the person who hired Ron. Ron spoke so highly of Scott and knew he had so much great advice to give that he connected us both for this interview to help all of you out. 

In this podcast, I interview Scott about his career as a fisheries biologist, from volunteering to working his way up. You might think Scott had his fisheries career set from the beginning, but that wasn’t the case; he took a side trip as an enforcement officer in conservation and a business management position along the way.

So how did Scott build his career as a regional fisheries biologist, and what tips does he have for aspiring biologists? Trust me - this podcast is GOLD. Scott reveals many great career tips - many that you have likely never heard - and stories of his fun adventures in fieldwork.

Specifically, we discussed:

  • What does Scott Putnam do as a Regional Biologist in the Department of Fish and Game, and how did he get where he is today?
  • What it’s like to work in the US government
  • What it’s like to work as a fisheries biologist
  • What it’s like to work in conservation law
  • Is there a difference between fisheries and terrestrial wildlife? Can one easily transition between the two? 
  • How the field has changed over three decades
  • How does someone navigate the hiring process, especially for government jobs
  • How to advance in your career
  • How do you quit a position without burning their bridges?
  • What kind of education do you need to get jobs - is a master’s necessary? 
  • How to get your first permanent position
  • How to stand apart from everyone else in job applications and thinking outside the box
  • What skills to have that they won’t teach you in school


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