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Chitra Rekha Basyal Alumnus Profile: Creating Wildlife Opportunities Where None Existed

A big part of my mission as a wildlife biologist is to empower and prepare aspiring and entry-level wildlife professionals so that they can secure good jobs in this competitive career and carry out their life’s purpose. As a  result, I offer a variety of programs for those who want to work with me and take charge of their career. Here, you’ll learn about the successes of my students so that you can be inspired and see what is truly possible for you when you have clarity, strategy, and a competitive job application. 

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I can’t tell you how much I adore Chitra’s spirit, determination, and passion for going after what she wants in this field: a career working on turtle conservation!
 
I first met Chitra when she reached out to me to connect with me on LinkedIn and started networking with me the right way. She properly introduced herself to me and asked for my help, but most importantly she explained what she had already done herself to learn about conservation careers and how she took initiative to get experience by reaching out to local Nepalese scientists and organizations for volunteering opportunities. I was so impressed to learn that she took the initiative to start her own projects and find her own funding to conduct turtle conservation research.
But she was stuck. She knew her next steps were to get a Master’s degree and ideally in the United States, but she didn’t know how to go about doing this. I encouraged Chitra to apply for a Successful Wildlife Professional scholarship and approved her application. Through the course, I taught her how to reach out to professors and in mentoring sessions, we worked on her emails, CV, and when she was encouraged to apply to a graduate program, on her statement of purpose. Chitra worked very hard and I am so proud of her success that she is now a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign!

Meet Chitra:

I am a BSc Forestry graduate student from the Institute of Forestry, Pokhara Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal and now a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I am a wildlife enthusiast, particularly having an interest in turtles.

Where are you currently in your wildlife career?

I would say I am not in the first ladder of my wildlife career because I have a degree focused on forestry, which is somehow related to wildlife, but the course does not help me specialize in it. However, I have few experiences conducting independent research projects on freshwater turtles and Gharial crocodiles.

What's your dream job?

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My dream job is to be a turtle biologist.

What is a hardship you have overcome in your career?

The biggest hardship I have had to overcome until now is doubting my self-worth based on my gender and background and often listening to others’ opinions to shape my career. I realize it’s my career and other opinions and stereotypes should not restrict me from taking a chance to build something I really want in my life.

What kind of impact do you want to have in your career?

The impact that I imagine having in my career is to be able to say proudly one day that we are able to save all the turtles of the world from the risk of extinction.

"The impact that I imagine having in my career is to be able to say proudly one day that we are able to save all the turtles of the world from the risk of extinction."

How did you know you wanted to go into this field?

Reflecting on my past research experience on turtles and gharial, I realized I was never tired of being occupied with those projects despite the heavy workload. Additionally, when I am having my time and think of my future days, I only imagine working in nature and outdoors and loving wildlife. So, I found that this is my field.

What's a moment of success you've had in this career?

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The greatest moment of success and happiness in my wildlife career was when I got my first written research proposal on the turtle species of my interest accepted for a grant. It was the turning point in my career. This success greatly helps me shape my future career ahead.

What is the biggest takeaway or most important lesson you have learned so far from the Successful Wildlife Professional?

I would say it is realizing your unique interests and capabilities and not comparing yourself with others. We cannot be as successful as someone else in their particular field, but we can be successful in our own area of interest and do better than others. So, finding your interest, your purpose, and the career that you really seek (identifying your dream job) is the key to success in this field. Because without an end destination, we will get stuck, especially in a field like wildlife, where every job requires different experience and ability.

"Finding your interest, your purpose, and the career that you really seek (identifying your dream job) is the key to success in this field."

What was your life/career like before the Successful Wildlife Professional? What was it like after?

Before the Successful Wildlife Professional Program, I was a determined individual with aspirations to pursue a career in freshwater turtle research. Coming from Nepal, where reptile conservation receives minimal attention compared to more charismatic species, I faced challenges in finding opportunities to work in this field, particularly in the United States where research opportunities were abundant, but requirements and processes were unfamiliar.

I aimed to work as a research assistant in a turtle-focused lab in the United States, but navigating the path to pursue a master’s degree there was daunting. The Successful Wildlife Professional Program became a turning point for me. It provided invaluable support through experience sharing, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and tutorials, which equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to navigate the complex process of applying for and enrolling in a master’s program aligned with my interests, alongside a lab focusing on turtle research.

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After the program, my journey as a wildlife professional took a significant leap forward. Armed with newfound skills, knowledge, and connections, I successfully secured a spot in a master’s program and began working in a research environment that aligned perfectly with my passion for turtle conservation. The program not only helped me overcome the challenges I faced but also empowered me to pursue my dreams with clarity and determination.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the Successful Wildlife Professional, but is on the fence?

I highly recommend the Successful Wildlife Professional Program to individuals in the early or mid-career stages of the wildlife field. It assists us in thinking outside the box and making the best career decisions for ourselves. The program not only guides us until its completion but also provides lifetime access. This program is the best investment for your wildlife career, particularly beneficial for international students.

"This program is the best investment for your wildlife career, particularly beneficial for international students."

Continue to follow Chitra’s success and adventures by following and connecting with her on LinkedIn. Chitra is also available to chat with you about what it’s like to be a member in the Successful Wildlife Professional Program! 

You can listen to Chitra's full story on the Fancy Scientist podcast:

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Or watch it on YouTube:

If you’re ready to get results like these and go after your dream career in wildlife, then I’d love to meet you! Check out my programs page to see how can work together. 

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Stephanie Manka, Ph.D. is a wildlife biologist with 20 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her story to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology.

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I understand that inbox can be a lot and I respect your decision. If there’s anything you’d like to share or discuss with me in the future, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Before we say our goodbye, I want to remind you that you have been an essential part of my journey. If there’s anything you’d like to share or discuss with me in the future, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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