From Aberdeen to Fighting Extinction - Dr Amy CoatseeDr Amy Coatsee

BSC (Hons) Zoology, 2001
From Aberdeen to Fighting Extinction

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
When I received my A-level results, I was devastated. I’d done well in Biology and Environmental Science but I got an E in Chemistry. Never before had I done so badly in an exam. This meant that I didn’t get into my first and second choice universities, which turned out to be a great thing. The University of Aberdeen was my third choice and as it turned out, the best choice. I’m incredibly grateful for that E in Chemistry and to the University of Aberdeen for offering me a place to study Zoology through clearing. I couldn’t imagine doing a degree anywhere else - Aberdeen was the perfect university for me. So many opportunities, experiences and great memories.

Why did you choose your particular course?
For as long as I can remember I have loved animals and have wanted to work in conservation. A degree in Zoology was my first step towards getting my dream job.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
It feels like a lifetime ago when I was at Aberdeen and it’s difficult to remember specific things. But when I do think of my time at the University of Aberdeen, I smile. I loved Aberdeen, the people, the city, the university. I spent an incredible three years there.

If while at Aberdeen you took part in a foreign exchange, e.g. Erasmus or Study Abroad, where did you go and what did you do?
I completed the second year of my degree at Oklahoma University, USA. It was an amazing experience that expanded my knowledge of wildlife in another country, as well as giving me the opportunity to study other subjects that interested me, such as Mythology. 

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Take every opportunity that arises and don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help if you’re struggling; you’re not expected to know everything and other people more than likely have the same questions as you.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was your first job after graduating from Aberdeen and what did it involve?
I worked a summer job as a bartender in 2001 before heading to Australia on a one year backpacker's visa in 2002. My first job in Australia was a three week volunteer position with Dr Menna Jones helping monitor a population of Tasmanian devils in north east Tasmania.

What is your current role?
I’m a Threatened Species Biologist at Zoos Victoria, fighting the extinction of some of Australia’s most endangered species. I have a strong background in conservation, research, government policy and science communication. I lead several recovery projects, specialising in eastern barred bandicoot recovery, where I have over 15 years of experience. This species is classified as extinct in the wild on mainland Australia but recent efforts have seen an increase in their numbers. I’m involved in all aspects of eastern barred bandicoot conservation including planning, monitoring, research, threat mitigation and community engagement.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
After leaving my summer bartending role on Herm Island, I travelled to Australia to do some volunteer work with Tasmanian devils. I’d planned to stay in Australia for a year, but 18 years later I’m still here and now an Australian citizen. When I first arrived, I worked in a few pubs until I was offered a position in a pathology lab, pipetting, of all things, human saliva. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but I stayed there for four years. In 2005 I was offered a place at the University of Melbourne to do a PhD on the reintroduction biology of the eastern barred bandicoot. Initially I was part-time because I was unsuccessful getting a scholarship. It took me 6 years to complete my thesis, handing in just 10 days before giving birth to my first son. When I returned to work after having children, I managed to get a couple of part-time contracts in government organisations that were environment related but not what I wanted to do long term. They did increase my skill set and network though, which is always important. In 2014, 13 years after graduating from the University of Aberdeen I was offered my current position as a Threatened Species Biologist at Zoos Victoria - my dream job!

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Absolutely! Without a degree in Zoology I’m not sure I would have been offered a place to do a PhD in Zoology or get a job in conservation.

One Top Tip

Don't give up! If there is a particular career you want, go for it. I was told that I would never get a job in conservation. I was aware that it would be difficult and there was no guarantee of success, because jobs in conservation are few and far between and very competitive, but I decided to pursue my career aspirations rather than give up. There were many times, particularly after finishing my PhD, that I thought I should give up, but I’m glad I persevered as I can’t imagine doing anything else. So don't listen to anyone that says you won't succeed - you will find a way. It may take several years, but the journey to getting your dream career is half the fun. Enjoy it!