Alumni

Alumni Profiles

Kaitlyn Gaynor

Kenya Spring '09

Kaitlyn Gaynor

About

I credit my experience at The School for Field Studies for launching my career. My time at SFS gave me not only the skills to conduct field research, but it instilled confidence that I could thrive in novel situations.

 
SFS PROGRAM: Wildlife Management Studies | Kenya | Spring 2009
HOME SCHOOL WHILE AT SFS: Columbia University
CURRENT POSITION: Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California – Berkeley
 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OR MOST STRIKING SFS MEMORY?
My first memory of my semester with SFS is of driving to the Kilimanjaro Bush Camp from the Nairobi Airport. All of the sights, sounds, and smells were so new, and despite jetlag and exhaustion, we were wide awake and glued to the windows of the vehicle trying to take it all in. We just about lost it when we saw a giraffe in the distance from the highway, and enthusiastically asked our driver to pull over. He laughed at our excitement, but indulged us nonetheless so that we could take pictures. Of course, we had many more incredible giraffe encounters over the semester, with far better photo opportunities, but that first sighting still has a special place in my memory.
 
LOOKING BACK, WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM YOUR TIME AT SFS? DID SFS CONTRIBUTE TO WHERE YOU ENDED UP?
I am currently conducting research on wildlife ecology and conservation in Mozambique and in northern California, as I pursue my PhD. Without a doubt, I credit my experience at the School for Field Studies for launching my career. My time at SFS gave me not only the skills to conduct field research and the theoretical knowledge to understand complex wildlife management scenarios, but it instilled confidence that I could thrive in novel situations and taught me how to engage with a diverse group of collaborators. Just last week, I introduced myself to my new class of undergraduate students with a picture of me conducting my SFS Directed Research project, and urged them all to explore SFS opportunities as they considered careers in environmental science.
 
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PROSPECTIVE SFS STUDENT?
Be fearless and keep an open mind. There is so much to be learned both inside and outside of the classroom, so embrace every situation as an opportunity for learning and cultural exchange.
 
RECOMMEND A GREAT BOOK OR FILM THAT HAD AN INFLUENCE ON HOW YOU VIEW THE ENVIRONMENT.
I just finished watching Planet Earth II, which is of course an exemplar of wildlife cinematography and conservation storytelling. My favorite episode was the final Cities episode, which gave a glimpse of animals that survive—and even thrive—in urban areas. So many wildlife films imagine animals living in untouched wilderness, but the reality is that nearly all wild animals are in some way affected by human activity. As the human footprint expands worldwide, it is imperative to consider how we can coexist with wildlife.
 
WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS DURING YOUR SFS PROGRAM?
I’ll never forget the sublime view of Mount Kilimanjaro from the steps of my banda at SFS’s Kilimanjaro Bush Camp. The mountain was a constant guardian and guide throughout the semester abroad. It never failed to amaze me!
 
IF YOU WERE AN ANIMAL OR PLANT, WHAT KIND WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
I’m pretty happy with my current animal species! While the human species has undoubtedly done a lot of harm to the environment, many of us have done a lot to be proud of, too. I am hopeful that the growing community of environmentally-minded global citizens (many of them SFS alumni and students!) can collectively make a positive impact on our planet and safeguard our future not only for other humans but for our fellow animals (and plants!)
 

February 2018