If any of you beautiful readers have read my “Meet Caitlin” section of my blog, or read my incredibly cheesy tag-line for my blog, you know I’m a wildlife and fisheries management major. I typically get some odd looks (and off-the-wall comments) when I tell people my major. This is simply because wildlife is a mainly male dominated major. But before I get carried away with the little things, I think it’s time for the incredibly strange and interesting story behind me choosing my major.
From a very young age, I had decided exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Anytime someone would ask me, “Hey Caitlin, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would stand up in my most “grown-up” posture, place my hands firmly on my hips, and confidently state: “I want to be a veterinarian and take care of puppies and kitties!”
I wanted nothing more than to be a veterinarian and play with animals for the rest of my life. In fact, it was such an insane desire that every time my mom would bring one of our cats to the local vet’s office, I would beg her to let me go. If she obliged, I would sit in the waiting room and pester the secretary with a never-ending list of questions about her job. In my eyes, I was the shining example of an ambitious child. Unfortunately for those around me, ambition at age 5 just comes off as annoying.
So I continued on throughout both elementary and middle school determined to become a vet. I would ask my teachers about college constantly. Most kindergartners don’t know whether or not college is in their future, but I was bound and determined for it to be my only future. This drove me to go above and beyond academically because I knew that getting into college required such diligence.
Before entering high school, I had to fill out what my school called a 4-year plan. I had to meet with my school counselor and discuss my classes that I wished to take throughout my years in high school. One of the first questions she asked me was whether I wanted to be on the university or technical path. Being steadfast with my decision made years before, I quickly blurted out college. She then pulled out another sheet of paper that read: 6 Year Plan. Hold up, I thought I would only be in high school for 4 years; what were those two extra years about?! My counselor explained that the extra 2 years were my plans for college. They weren’t meant to be filled out nearly as in-depth as my 4-year plan. In fact, the 2 extra years only consisted of a blank space that said college and a blank space that said major.
I have never seen a more terrifying fill-in-the-blank form in my entire life. Somehow those two words completely took me off guard. I was suddenly faced with a concrete decision to make for my future. How could I have been so confident in what I wanted to do with my life until I was asked to write it?
After seeing my shocked face, I assume, my counselor said, “You have your entire 4 years of college to fill out these blanks, Caitlin. There is no need to worry about them now.” What a relief! This new reality of my future really forced me to think long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I spent the next few years in high school still determined to go to college, but I became much more open to what I wanted to do.
Fortunately enough, I had an “ah ha” moment my junior year of high school. I was sitting on the couch with my family watching an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. In this particular episode, he was working alongside a wildlife resources agency worker, tagging birds for a population count. I thought to myself, “is that really a job?” –mostly because it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I remember immediately Googling “what kind of degree do you need to be a wildlife resources agent”. I finally found a website that told me about a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology. From that moment on, I KNEW what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I obviously chose to attend LMU, if you’re interested in reading that story it’s in my Why LMU? post.
And so my ‘wild’life began. I absolutely love my major. It’s been a great experience thus far! I really couldn’t say enough about it, but I’m going to try to get a little taste of what being a wildlife major at LMU is all about.
I am currently in my third year as a wildlife major, and having just completed all of my general education courses, I am in my course specific classes. I am taking Management of Wild Game Birds and Ichthyology this year. Ichthyology is the study of fish. (Don’t feel bad for having no clue what that meant, I had to Google it when I was registering for classes.)
Not only do my courses have out of the ordinary names, but we also have out of the ordinary assignments. For example, my Ichthyology course has a lab that meets every Wednesday, and we go to a different lake, river, or creek to catch and identify species of fish. I mean, that’s a pretty good deal. Being required to go on a field trip to a gorgeous body of water every week certainly isn’t a bother. These lab meetings are practice for our final project in lecture: catching and identifying a collection of 30 species of fishes. This may seem like a lot of species to you, but fun fact: Tennessee has the richest abundance of freshwater species in all of the North American/Mexico region. My partner and I currently have about 15 species and we’ve had a blast going out and collecting them. We must collect these fish for identification purposes. This not only helps our department acquire a collection of study specimens for future students, but it also helps us gain valuable field experience and expertise with the identification tools. These elements will be crucial tools to our future careers.
We also have a really awesome club on campus associated with our major, the wildlife society. This is a chapter of the larger National Wildlife Society. We meet every Tuesday and discuss our upcoming and future events. Our events are just as much fun as our major and we try to involve everyone on campus. The wildlife society is open to everyone. In fact, if you ever want to see what we’re up to, you can check out our Facebook group. We’ve hosted events from concerts to wild game cookouts. The society is open to everyone. If you have any questions about the events we have or the WLS in general, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!