My career with the Forest Service was all accidental.
I’ve always loved animals and watched lots of Disney’s Born Free and Omaha Mutual’s Wild Kingdom shows, so I was destined to work with animals. My path with wildlife biology started in high school biology class. As a Los Angeles born and raised first generation Thai, my family had no idea of what that meant by a career in “wildlife”!
I graduated from University of California Davis (UCD) with a B.S. in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology (1997), with plans to go to graduate school. While at UCD, I “stumbled into” the US Forest Service internship office that was just starting their Asian American recruitment initiative. I applied for the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), got it and became a student intern in Wildlife Biology in the Pacific Southwest (PSW) Research branch of the Forest Service. The Forest Service offered to pay for my entire Master’s degree education and pay me a GS-7 salary.
Back then, I didn’t even know what “Forest Service” was. I conducted my MS research as an intern and graduated with a M.S. in Wildlife at University of Nevada Reno (UNR) in 2000 – debt free. I was offered another SCEP internship to pursue a PhD but turned it down, as it was in “central Oregon”… too remote for a LA girl like me. In the fall of 2000, I ultimately converted into a full time permanent wildlife biologist on the San Bernardino National Forest (southern California). I had all intentions of leaving the Service after a couple of years to pursue a PhD, but after 15 years, I haven’t left!
I stayed on the San Bernardino NF for 14 years, as the District Wildlife Biologist. I never got to work with lions in Africa, but I have experienced a lot of endangered species, fires, and lots of beautiful landscapes. I helped convert a SCEP student, and helped foster many undergrads/grads in their work, which has been absolutely rewarding!!!
Most recently, I moved to Region 6 in the Regional Office in Portland, Oregon to work on new species issues and take on new adventures; namely the “northern spotted owl.” Although my wildlife career was not exactly my “plan”, it has been personally rewarding to know that I am making a difference and contributing to conservation in a different way.
I married another career Forest Service employee and have 2 wildlife loving girls. I am a “cupcake mom”, and will cook Thai food or birthday cake for anyone if asked!