Kristen Ragusa joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) on January 19th as a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) field scientist. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Illinois and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Natural Resources. She has spent the last ten years working in the veterinary field and is excited to start a new career path in conservation. Her fieldwork experiences come mostly from volunteer work, including epidemiology on Eastern Box Turtles, invasive plant removal, and conducting bird surveys. She enjoys spending her time outdoors, hiking, gardening, bird watching, and spending time with her family and pets.
What is your background before coming to work at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS)?
I worked as an animal nurse at the University of Illinois as well as a local clinic.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I am excited to work in conservation. It has become a great passion and hobby of mine and now I get to transition it into a career. I also am excited to have a job where I might literally get my feet wet.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I have always had a love for animals. My mom always tells stories of me catching toads as a toddler, then as I got older I used to help out on a family friend's farm with the cattle and chicken. I also spent a great deal of time as a kid and teenager catching fish and playing at local ponds. The moral of the story, I just really enjoy animals, wildlife, and being outside and want to be able to conserve it for generations to come.
Who or what drew you to your field of study?
My passion for the outdoors, nature, and wildlife. I want to help create a better environment, not only for nature lovers but for the wildlife that makes nature so great.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
I think the biggest challenge in this career is getting the general public involved. The environmental challenges we are currently facing are enormous and will take a lot of effort to get us back on the right track.
What do you wish more people understood about science or being a scientist?
How amazing it is to discover answers or solutions to a question or problem that allow us to really understand the inner workings of an object(s).
What advice would you give to future scientists?
Follow your passion, it's never too late. Dream big and ask a lot of questions.