Botanist Connie Carroll-Cunningham has been interested in science, especially biology, as long as she can remember. Her love of working with animals motivated her to earn a bachelor's degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois.
However, her career path changed after taking a forestry course as an undergraduate. She fell in love with forest ecology, and went on to earn a master’s degree in Forestry from University of Illinois.
"I sometimes had to find my own way. I did have some excellent teachers and instructors that helped foster my love of biology and nature, mainly through their own enthusiasm for their subjects," Connie said.
Connie joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) in 1997 as one of the first Critical Trends Assessment (CTAP) Program biologists. Currently, Connie conducts plant surveys and locates threatened and endangered plant species for the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority under INHS's Biological Surveys and Assessment and Urban Biotic Assessment programs, respectively.
"The best part of the job is getting to work outside in nature. Even during the not-so-pleasant conditions, I still prefer it far above staying inside all day. I also love the constant learning," Connie said.
Connie's advice to future #WomenInScience: stay true to your heart.
"Doing this type of work well takes a passion and a desire to keep learning and improving. There are many more women in the fields of biology and natural resources than once thought possible which makes pursuing related careers easier, but there are often still many obstacles and prejudices. Don’t be dissuaded. Listen and stay true to your passion," Connie said.