Journey from Nepal to a Master's degree in the US: Interview with Turtle Researcher Chitra Rekha Basyal

Episode 105
42m | Mar 19, 2024

When it comes to careers in wildlife, one of the things you’ll hear me say over and over again is that you need to go after what you want - you can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen. YOU have to make them happen. But what happens if you don’t know how to go after what you want? You aren’t sure exactly what to do? 

That was the case for Chitra Rekha Basyal, one of my students in the Successful Wildlife Professional program. In this episode of the Fancy Scientist podcast, I want to share with you how Chitra overcame barriers to career goals by going after what she wanted - even when she didn’t know how - and finding mentorship. 

Chitra found her calling in wanting to protect threatened and endangered turtles in her home country of Nepal. But as a forestry student hungry for research opportunities, she hit barrier after barrier that threatened her dream career like lack of funding, lack of connections in the field, and uncertainty about career pathways. After attending a virtual conference on turtle conservation needs in Nepal, she boldly reached out to the organizers to find a way to get involved. This led to opportunities to design her own baseline research project studying threatened Nepalese turtle species. Chitra successfully secured grant funding and collaborated with regional experts, gaining invaluable hands-on research experience. 

Although Chitra developed some great research experience, she hit a wall and knew she had to get a Master’s and wanted one in the US, but had no idea how to go about this. She found me on LinkedIn and reached out. 

I was so impressed by Chitra’s dedication and passion to turtle conservation and knew that I could help her dream of getting a Master’s degree come true. I thought she would be a perfect fit for my Successful Wildlife Professional Program and encouraged her to apply. 

Chitra came into the program with that one goal in mind: to get a Master’s degree in the United States. She diligently attended all of the webinar training and showed up to mentoring sessions with questions to ask and her resume to work on. With mentorship and clarity on the pathway to getting a Master’s degree, Chitra put in the work and networked with people who could be an advisor to her. Her dedication and hard work have paid off, as she was invited to apply for a Master’s program. She once again put in the work during mentoring sessions; we went over her personal statements back and forth making revisions, and now she just started her Master’s program in Illinois.

Chitra's success is one of my proudest moments in guiding passionate students to achieve their wildlife conservation dreams. Through persistence and unconventional approaches, her story is one of seeking creative solutions when traditional paths are blocked.

This podcast is a must-listen for any student or professional struggling with how to break into a competitive field like wildlife biology. Chitra's passion and resourcefulness demonstrate that we can break through limitations. Her success proves that anyone with grit and vision can manifest their goals despite real and perceived obstacles.

Specifically, we discussed:

  • Chitra's journey from attending a conference on turtle conservation to launching her own research project in Nepal
  • The barriers Chitra faced as an international student trying to access information and opportunities
  • How enrolling in the Successful Wildlife Professional gave Chitra the custom strategic support she needed
  • Chitra's ultimate success in securing her dream master's position researching turtles in the United States 
  • 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.

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Fancy Scientist with Dr. Stephanie Manka