5 Questions for a Scientist: Wildlife Ecologist Alessio Mortelliti

The gap between the science classroom and a real-life career in the sciences can seem distant for some students. The 5 Questions for a Scientist interview series was created to bridge this gap! We aim to inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences by showcasing the incredible diversity of STEM careers by talking to scientists themselves. See all of the interviews here.

Get to know Alessio

Occupation: Wildlife ecologist and assistant professor
Institution: University of Maine
Field: Wildlife habitat conservation
Focus: The impact of global change on mammals and birds

Alessio is an Assistant Professor in Wildlife Habitat Conservation at the University of Maine. Research in his lab is focused on the impact of global change on vertebrate species (mammals and birds). They combine large-scale field-based projects with cutting-edge quantitative approaches. Alessio has conducted field projects in Europe (Italy, Austria), Africa (Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia), southeast Asia (Indonesia), Australia, and the U.S. Alessio is currently a Second Century Stewardship Science Research Fellow.

You can get to know more about Alessio or connect with him through his website.

1. Explain what you do in your work in one sentence (or two!).
I am a wildlife ecologist. I study how animals respond to the way humans are destroying our planet.

2. When did you first become interested in your field?
It all started when I was a kid, around six or seven years of age. I became really passionate about animals and passed most of my free time trying to breed fish, frogs, and lizards in small aquariums. Whenever possible (I grew up in a big city), I would go to a small pond and catch and identify as many animals as possible. As I grew up, I would read all sorts of books on animal behavior, and by the time I started high school I was desperate to start college and further my zoological education.

3. What is your favorite part of being a scientist or of science in general?
My favorite part is to develop a project and start going to the field to collect the data. I especially love the first day when everything can happen…and I hate the last day when everything has happened!

4. What is a typical day like for you as a scientist?
One percent of the time I am in amazing places all over the planet catching fun animals. Ninety-nine percent of the time I am in the office, slouched in front of the computer, trying to make sense of what I observed during the last field trip.

5. Do you have any advice for young people interested in science today?
If you want to make money, don’t become a scientist. There’s many other options out there: you could become an engineer, a doctor, or start a boy band. Become a scientist if and only if you are really passionate about the subject you would be studying and you just can’t help it, you really love science!


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