University of Minnesota

Fisheries & Wildlife: Conservation Biology Student Profile

Name: Jacob Olbrich
Anticipated Graduation Year:
Major: Conservation Biology & Statistics

How and why did you choose your major?

I have always been in love with the natural world. I never wanted to do anything else than to be a biologist. When it came time to select a major I had a choice of one of the three FWCB tracks. After starting in fisheries and jumping to wildlife, I learned conservation biology gave me the most potential to leave a positive impact on this world. Then I had to decide whether or not to graduate early or push for a double major. I chose statistics as it is a blossoming tool in the scientific fields and will surely aid me in future research.

Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.

Conservation Biology is a balance of social, environmental, and economic factors to produce a beneficial result. My upper division classes focus on one or more of these aspects and how they might affect decision making from any level, whether it is academia, politics or private assessments. The summer field courses up in the University's forestry center in Cloquet allow you to be in the field (tracking bears, trapping small mammals, and surveying trout) as well as meet some great people who share your classes and can gain close bonds. That was absolutely my favorite class at the University so far. As far as challenges, I always seem to bite off more than I can chew. The two majors I am going for do not share any common courses so my semesters are often packed. With two jobs compounded on top of that, it can be overwhelming at times, but I do appreciate every opportunity I have been given.

What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)

I currently work two jobs. I am a research assistant for a plant ecology lab where we work to understand nutrient networks for plants and soils. The second job is working for the Bell Museum where I get to educate tour groups about Minnesota's natural history and some biological concepts. My best college experience came from my two week internship to Barrow, Alaska. There, I assisted in tagging three spotted seals. The tags allow us to determine where seals move and postulate why they may go to certain locations. I got this opportunity through the CFANS mentoring program which I cannot recommend highly enough. The program pairs you with a mentor that best exemplifies what your future plans may hold so any question you have about the field can be answered. This means any questions on grad school, important skills, helpful courses, networking, and any general tips for the future.

In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?

Always be open to any experience that comes to you. The thing that makes college important is to differentiate yourself from other candidates seeking the same job later on in life. Take classes you honestly believe will benefit you. Take internships around the world to get field techniques. Do some research and maybe stumble upon a field or species you love. It bolsters your credentials and gives you the fairest chance to achieve your potential.

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