Mammalogist Brittany Rogness joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) in May 2020.
Brittany earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Afterward she worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at Governor Dodge State Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the National Bison Range Refuge in Montana.
Brittany received her master’s in biology at Fort Hays State University studying the population and distribution of bat species in Kansas. Before joining INHS, she monitored bat species in the Midwest as a wildlife biologist in consulting.
She recently answered some questions about her career in science.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I was in third grade. I had teachers that went above and beyond in my science classes which captivated my interest. I was also a big fan of The Magic School Bus.
Who or what drew you to study bats?
My professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Dr. Jeff Huebschman. My first internship was working with him and the bats of Grant County, Wisconsin. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about them before the internship and how essential they are to ecosystems. He encouraged and pushed me to continue my education and apply for career opportunities. I have been excited to continue research on bats and to educate people about their importance.
What are common misconceptions about your career?
Sometimes I get negative reactions when people hear I study bats (from transmitting diseases to sucking your blood). This career gives me the opportunity to educate on their ecosystem services, the process of disease transmission, and how bats are not to blame.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Starting this new position and moving to a new area in the midst of COVID-19 and a work-at-home order. This time is difficult, but my new colleagues have been amazing at communicating with me and making the transition easier.
What do you wish more people understood about science or being a scientist?
Field work can never be perfect. There are always bumps in the road while trying to collect data (e.g., equipment failure, weather, or access to land). As a scientist there are always more questions to be answered due to new research, findings, and technology advances. Being a scientist requires a lot of patience and understanding while performing research.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
Take every opportunity you can in school. Establish strong relationships with your professors as they could be your future references. Develop computer skills while in school; learn R and GIS. Get certified in various skills. Network whenever you can.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
Getting the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques with experienced researchers to conduct analyses on bats.