Welcome future scientists!
The worst part of finding a job as a new scientist fresh out of school is trying to build a resume when you have no experience. I mean, ideally you’ll have some volunteer work or an internship to put on there. But sometimes you can’t even get an internship without SOME sort of experience. So here is a list of free and fun ideas you can do on the weekends to help add something to your resume when you’re first starting out. You may want to include some of these activities under the “Skills” section of your resume or get creative about how you incorporate it into your experience section.
1. Participate in citizen science projects.
In the era of growing up with the internet, current students and young professionals have so many great opportunities to get involved with science through both websites and apps. Citizen science refers to science that can be done by people with little formal training or experience in science. It uses technology, such as smartphone applications, to harness the power of participation to assist with science projects. Common projects are cataloging wildlife camera trap photos and logging bird species seen in your backyard feeder. While there are many platforms for citizen science, start with zooniverse.org to find projects currently accepting volunteers.
2. Teach yourself your flora and fauna.
You likely have a public library or bookstore near you - pick up a local plant and wildlife track identification book and head out to your local park to start practicing. You’re going to have to learn your plants and birds at some point, and it’s typically simple enough that you can self teach yourself quite well! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start somewhere as basic as your backyard feeder. Keep a journal by your window or patio where you can jot down the species you observing at your feeder, and start looking out for patterns or common species observed. You can use apps such as iBird to plug in bird features to help figure out what species you’re looking at. Eventually, move on to identifying songs. Eventually you’ll start picking out birds and calls easily!
3. Create a plant press.
Plant presses have been used by scientists and naturalist for centuries to capture details about vegetation. You can even bring this plant press to a job interview as an example of your knowledge of local species. To learn how to make a plant press, click here. If you can’t afford any supplies, press the plant between the pages of a heavy textbook. Make sure that you only collect plants in places where it is legal to do so - trying asking park rangers if it would be okay if you can harvest in your local park.
4. Monitor amphibians through FrogWatch USA.
Get out to local creeks, streams, and amphibian habitat in your backyard and learn the calls of toads and frogs! FrogWatch USA allows you to input the amphibians you hear in your area to contribute to the knowledge of frogs across the USA. Get some warm clothes and head out late with your family to listen for some amphibians! Check out more here.
5. Check up on bird nests with NestWatch.
NestWatch is an American nesting monitoring program to track the progress and success of nesting birds across the nation. They provide tips on how to find nests and how to ethically interact with bird habitat. Learn more about NestWatch and become a certified nest tracker here.