Name: Vanessa Petro

Graduation Year: 2006

Education: 2013 MS Forest Science, Oregon State University; 2006 BA Conservation Ecology, Sterling College 2004; AA Natural Resource Management, Sterling College

Current Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

Employment: Senior Faculty Research Assistant, Oregon State University

Other interests: Anything the Pacific Northwest has to offer!

Can you tell us about your current work? 

I work with a diversity of stakeholders to facilitate science-based natural resource management. My work contributes to improved understanding of wildlife ecology and conservation in the Pacific Northwest. I primarily work with American beaver and American black bear, which also extends to mountain beaver and various ungulate species. As a wildlife researcher, I am involved with managing grants, study design development, project planning and permit acquisition, preparing research protocols, managing field crews, conducting data collection, leading wildlife capture and handling, managing and analyzing data, composing manuscripts and participating in public outreach.

How did Sterling influence your current career path?

I always knew I wanted to work with wildlife in some capacity when I started my undergraduate program at Sterling, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. The internship program offered at Sterling changed my life because I never realized there was a research world that supported wildlife conservation and management. For my internship, I worked for Sequoia National Forest on the Sierra Nevada Forest Carnivore Monitoring Program. I immediately fell in love with the field biologist career! I spent my remaining summers during college working on wildlife projects for Sequoia National Forest and Utah State University. The ability to gain these early career experiences helped prepare me for life after college, allowing me to become more competitive for wildlife job positions when other students were just starting their field careers once they graduated.

Where do you find inspiration?

I draw my professional inspiration from the following quote by Rachel Carson, “Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.”

What is your most memorable “out in the field” story?

I will never forget a hilarious experience I had with our Vertebrate Natural History course that Dave Link taught. Dave had us go ice fishing to collect perch for our fish anatomy lab. To this day I still don’t know how he did it, but he managed to secretly slip little pieces of paper with messages written on them like, “HELP ME!” or “eat more chicken” into the stomachs of all of our fish before we began the dissection once we returned to the classroom. It was quite entertaining to find these notes and made hands-on learning so much more fun.

Any words of wisdom for current Sterling students?

The best thing you can do for your career is to make yourself vulnerable to new experiences.  I’ve learned it’s the best way to grow both personally and professionally.


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