Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Wallace

Home Town: Jonesboro, ME
Graduation Year: 2022
Degree: Biology with a Wildlife concentration
Job Position: Naturalist, Denali Park, Alaska

Please tell us a little bit about what you are doing now.

After I graduated from UMM in December of 2022 and completed my last interview out of the 15 jobs I applied for, I was accepted for a position as a Naturalist in Denali Park, Alaska. I packed my things, and drove across the country 6,000+ miles to Alaska in April. Over the summer, I guided groups of people in Denali National Park & Preserve on front-country hikes and bus tours while teaching them about the flora & fauna of the region. We’d frequently have incredible experiences observing grizzly bears, moose, caribou, etc., in their natural habitat. In addition, I would give professional lectures to people on the natural history of Denali. During my free time in the land of the midnight sun, I would fly fish for salmon and Arctic Grayling, volunteer as a bird bander in Fairbanks, hike in the tundra, and simply explore the vast Subarctic wilderness.

In November, I accepted a temporary position as a field technician at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – Greenville Headquarters. I was responsible for tagging moose during the hunting season while recording biological data on the harvested moose.

I’ve been back in Alaska since early November and have been enjoying the peace in Denali after the tourist season has ended. I still work for the Denali Education Center, but now I’m doing remote work for them as a Field Educator and a Winter Youth Educator. I am working on developing our summer programs, giving virtual wildlife programs to youth across the country, and setting up in-person educational programs for Title I elementary schools in Alaska- connecting the students to Denali National Park & Preserve. During these cold and dark months of winter, I make it a priority to get outside every day skiing in the boreal forest, snow machining, ice fishing, or scouting for herds of caribou.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?

The importance of making connections with professionals in your field of study. Especially in biology. In addition, volunteering and/or job shadowing to make those connections and get some field experience is extremely helpful when searching for positions post-grad. I’ve been told by many hiring managers that my resume is very competitive because of all the experience I’ve had through volunteering, job shadowing, etc. Even if it’s only for a day or two. It counts.

Do you have any advice for current students at UMaine Machias?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals in your field of study. Many of the folks I’ve reached out to are eager to teach young professionals about their careers and how they got there. Listen to their stories, and take notes! Be persistent, and never give up on your goals. Oh, and take some GIS courses. It’ll make you more competitive in the hiring process.

How did your time at UMaine Machias prepare you for what you are doing now?

The number of lab reports and research projects I’ve done during undergrad felt overwhelming at the time, but I am so grateful for the skills I’ve developed during those projects and reports. In the biology field, being able to write a scientific report and conduct a research project from the ground up is an essential skill.

How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?

The professional connections I’ve made through UMM have changed the trajectory of my career for the better. Without those connections, I might not be where I am now. I can’t forget to mention the incredible personal relationships I gained while being at UMM. I’ve made deep connections with people that I am still frequently in contact with today.