Throughout my life, science has been a benevolent force shaping my family life, personal choices, and ultimately my education and career path. I grew up in a family of scientists – from parents and grandparents to aunts and uncles we are all are in one form of science or another. This led to a childhood immersed in exploration, discovery and the wholehearted pursuit of a curious life. I loved it then, and with the perspective of adulthood, I look back at it with a deep sense of appreciation for my family’s love of science. It was during secondary school that I was first exposed to the…shall we call it ‘darker side’ of science. Gone was the world of hatching butterflies and vinegar volcanoes. Suddenly science was rife with ethics, responsibilities and even consequences – it seemed daunting and fascinating all at once.
My discipline is conservation biology, which arguably only exists out of a sense of responsibility to our environment. I was drawn to it because I deeply care about the other species that we cohabitate with. So often it feels like humans have forgotten that we are also a species on Earth that is subject to the laws of nature, including extinction. Unfortunately through our choices, we are also taking a plethora of other species with us. I have always viewed science and science communication as a way to help mitigate our impacts on the planet. As the self-proclaimed stewards of the planet, it is our moral responsibility to address the consequences of our actions.
Easier said than done, of course. Many areas most under fire for conservation issues are also the ones facing underdevelopment challenges. This brings about the ethics and responsibilities associated with privilege. Coming from a developed nation offering every comfort and service that I could need, it is easy to say ‘save the animals!’, ‘conserve!’, ‘don’t deplete your natural resources!’ But when your family is living day to day, always one step away from serious trouble, easy money can simply be too tempting. The ethics of such situations must be carefully thought about to give respect and understanding to all involved. On the other hand, does the responsibility lie with those coming from resources to step in and try to find a more balanced, long-term solution? These are the ethical challenges I think about when imagining my career path.
Through my studies, I hope to gain insight and tools to tackle such complex situations. Science is riddled with such dilemmas, particularly when dealing with cross cultural communication and issues that can boil down to survival in some cases. I chose to once more study at an international university because of the diverse student body that will lend a global perspective to my education. By the time I graduate, I hope to be able to better navigate the ethics and responsibilities of a complex scientific situation, as well as understand how cultural factors can influence a sense of responsibility.