WEC Alumni in the World - Jesse Kessler

Jesse Kessler is a recent WEC graduate. We spoke with her just after she received her bachelor's degree in December.

So you just graduated last week, and you're working at FWC now?

Yes!

I actually started working for them before I graduated.

What are you doing there?

Mostly, I'm inputting data from a panther mortality study. At the lab we do panther necropsies, then all of the necropsy reports are put into a database, so I'm helping enter all that data. I also help with the necropsies.

How'd you get into that?

I actually volunteered in that lab for almost a year. I worked more with white tailed deer when I was volunteering, but I then got hired on full-time to do the panther work.

When did you know you wanted to work in ecology? Do you have an origin story?

Not specifically, but I was always outdoorsy growing up. My family often went camping, and we lived on the edge of my town so it was a little bit more rural, woodsy. So I guess I just grew up like that.

Where are you from originally?

Melbourne, Florida.

What's one word that describes how you work?

Meticulously. I'm very Type A about everything I do. I tend to triple check to make sure everything I'm doing is right.

What's your favorite organism you've worked with and why?

Last summer, I did an internship with FWC's marine mammal section, and worked with manatees: going out to do rescues and necropsies. I really like manatees and I liked working with them a lot.

Being from Melbourne, which is on the coast, I grew up seeing manatees. It was just really cool to be a part of their conservation after seeing them my entire life.

What's an unexpected experience you've had because you're in wildlife?

Going into the Wildlife major at UF, I wasn't anticipating how hands on a lot of the classes were going to be. I really enjoyed all the hands-on experience aside from all the bookwork.

How do you manage your time?

I have a big paper planner, and I write everything in there. It's always completely filled up, and I just follow that every day.

What's something that you liked about living in Gainesville?

I liked making friends, and having them close by. It was awesome having so many close friends so close to me, and being able to go hang out with them and study with them.

Did you do a lot of fieldwork for the manatee project?

There was a lot of fieldwork! We would take calls from the public if there was a sick or injured manatee, or a dead one. There'd be days where we'd just sit inside, because we wouldn't get any calls, but then I remember there was one week where I did six necropsies plus a rescue. We'd go on the boat a lot. Sometimes it'd take an hour or more to reach where we wanted to go. I really enjoyed that.

What are you currently reading?

I haven't had time to read much lately, but I read all the Harry Potter books over again at least once every other year. I just bought an Agatha Christie book.

Do you have a go-to tool when you're working?

My planner. There's a note section on it, so whenever I need to remember something I write it in there.

Did you do any internships before your manatee one?

No, that was my first one.

What do you do for fun?

I mountain bike with my boyfriend! He's really good, and I like to tag along on the trails.

The dreaded question for recent grads-what are your plans for the future?

The job I'm working now is a temporary job, so it'll be up in June. After that I'm not 100% sure. I may apply for grad school, but for the next few years I think I'll try to get another job-maybe in a different state. I want to get some more experiences before I think about grad school.

Is there anyone else you'd like to see do one of these interviews?

Michael Cloyd. He's graduating in the spring.

Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share with students who are going to read this?

Don't worry so much! I'm a worrier sometimes, but everything usually ends up working out fine, even when it seems like it's not going to.