Can you get a job as an Aquatic Entomologist?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Entomology' started by Teenage Entomologist, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Trapper Badovinac

    Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    About 20 years ago I got a lot of great help from Boris Kondratieff at Colorado State University. He teaches classes in aquatic entomology. He's a faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management.

    I was really doubtful he would still be there, so I checked their website.

    Teenage Entomologist likes this.
  2. Ron McNeal

    Ron McNeal Turtles or universes? I can't decide....

    Ask and Ye Shall Receive..........!!

    I really get a kick out of seeing how much seemingly very good info comes after someone asks an earnest question like TE has done here. What a resource this WFF can be.

    Good for you TE and good for this forum.
    Teenage Entomologist likes this.
  3. snarlac

    snarlac Member

    Well - not entirely accurate information; TE should know there are very few jobs and very many PhD's looking for them; TE will require a minimum of 10 years of college, grad and undergrad, and on average 3 years of postdoctoral study to qualify for a couple jobs a year, and 50-100 PhD's applying for each. Oh, I forgot to mention, you'll need to pump out a dozen or so publications before you apply for a job, and then another two dozen papers, and a half million in grant money, to make tenure (i.e., make your job permanent, you'll get no more than 5 years to do this). There are non-academic options, in government or non-profits - that are even rarer.

    If TE is interested in entomology, TE should go to a midwest Big 10 school where there are lots of crops and insect pests, and get the basics there; Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State (Rich Merritt is still there, I believe) come to mind. Or Cornell if you can get in and have a bunch of money (~$40,000 per year, out of state tuition and basic living). And then specialize in aquatic insects at the graduate level if there is an opportunity for such. That way, if you don't get into graduate school, at least you have a spitting chance at sorting samples and keying out bugs for a consultant, or maybe even working for a major firm, like Monsanto.

    Oregon State does not come to mind for an undergraduate degree in this field - heck, it doesn't even have an entomology program, anymore. But if the idea is to go key out aquatic insects and fish on the side while going to school while deciding what to do, hell, go to Oregon State - or for that matter, Montana or Idaho; fishing is much better around those places.
  4. Teenage Entomologist

    Teenage Entomologist Gotta love the pteronarcys.

    How many people my age want to be an aquatic entomologist? I mean, everyone I know either wants to be a computer scientist, or they want to deal with technology.
  5. zen leecher aka bill w

    zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    au contraire...

    I believe it shares area with the weed science department.

    On a side note: My dearly beloved used to work in the entomology department and showed me Metolius stoneflies on a first date.
    Ron McNeal likes this.
  6. snarlac

    snarlac Member

    My apologies, I meant it doesn't have an entomology department anymore (since 2003) - so go check with your beloved to verify; sure there are faculty in scattered departments that are entomologists. But it ain't the same thing as a top tier program. If TE is bent on staying somewhere on the west coast, I would add UC-Berkeley to my recommendations for an undergraduate college. Just be sure to be in the 2-5th percentiles on your entrance aptitude tests; otherwise don't waste your time and money applying. I'm not being cynical here. But college reputation counts....alot....and it's more than just reputation; the reputation is there because the education you get is that much better. And it is that pedigree of the institution (and your advisor, when you finish graduate school) that will get your foot in the door. Even then.....chances are you won't be playing with aquatic bugs for employment.

    And there are tons of people who want to get paid to study aquatic bugs, and do that in the PNW; gee - I would do that myself. As for the option of studying fisheries, there's a few more jobs there, but even more PhD's stacked up like cordwood applying for each and every position as they eek out an existence serving up latte's at the local StarBucks.

    Of course - if your beloved comes back and says baloney, everyone who goes to OSU in entomology has a job in the field, I stand corrected. But I doubt it.
  7. Krusty

    Krusty Active Member

    Look...if TE invests heavily in himself by taking hardcore math and sciences (inorganic, organic, biochemistry, and physical chemistry )during his college freshman, sophomore, and junior years he'll have laid the foundation to whatever career direction he finally decides to choose.

    How many of us knew exactly what we were going to end up actually doing when we started college? Very few, and unlike a lot of my contemporaries, he won't have closed a lot of doors very early by neglecting a rigorous education. The siren lure of easy liberal arts classes draws so many to its languid shores.
  8. Conor Giorgi

    Conor Giorgi New Member

    TE, Kudos on following your interests. I'm a grad student at Eastern Washington University getting my MS in Biology. My project is studying the impacts that spawning sockeye salmon have on benthic macroinvertebrate production and community composition. The overall goal of the study is to determine if the aquatic foodweb is hearty enough to support a sustainable population of rearing salmon. Like you, I was driven to this research by my interest in aquatic invertebrates. Unfortunately, if you strictly want to be an aquatic entomologist you'll be limited to mostly lab work, like EcoAnalysts, spending 95% of your time behind a microscope (which is not much fun at all - my opinion). To do more hands-on work you'll need a more varied "toolbox," be familiar with, and able to apply water quality, stream ecology/limnology, fisheries management, and other technical skills that will make you more marketable/employable. Stick to biology/aquatic ecology/fisheries coursework and you'll be on the right track to pursue what you love. Also, volunteer whenever and wherever you can to get your foot in the door at various companies and agencies. Best of luck, let me know if you have any questions I can help with.
  9. Teenage Entomologist

    Teenage Entomologist Gotta love the pteronarcys.

    Thanks! Definitely want to deal with stream ecology and fisheries as well as aquatic insects. Will contact you with any questions that I have.
  10. snarlac

    snarlac Member

    OP (TE) didn't ask whether it would be fun, he asked if there were jobs; and being a graduate student like CG isn't the same as being employed to do that. As to all that other stuff, WQ, limno, fish, and "other" skills (e.g., statistics etc.) - sure - you can take bunches of classes but again - does that change the question "are there jobs" that use these skills? No it does not.

    The answer isn't no, but it isn't much either. Alot of those classes do no more than entertain students and give them a false feeling of qualification; stuff that really doesn't apply or qualify for jobs in the real world (ouside of academia). Methinks CG will sooner or later will realize this, hopefully before he turns 40. TE perhaps sooner.

    OTOH - oh isn't grad school and class keenly interesting? Sure. If the idea is to take a decade off and learn a bunch of stuff and put off true employment till much later in life, then go ahead and do it. Just don't expect someone to hire you after all that, or even, to find many jobs to apply for. It just ain't likely to happen.

    Harvard also has an excellent undergraduate and graduate school reputation generall,y and specifically in entomology, as well as in other fields. Get in there.
  11. Dave Evans

    Dave Evans Active Member

    TE, good for you! My experience is that good people always get good jobs so don't let anyone tell you different. Aquatic entomology is very specific so you would probably end up with an undergraduate degree in biology or ecology. Many of the entomology programs are focused on graduate education so your best hope is finding a good undergraduate adviser whose research area is close to your own interests. Once you get into college just keep and open mind and see where it takes you. A biology or ecology degree will require at least one year + of chemistry, plus physics, calculus, etc. The students who enjoy these courses tend to do well in the major. The best advice I can give you is get work or volunteer in a research lab. It exposes you to the field and laboratory work that is required of biologists, and the experience for future jobs is invaluable. It will also give you a good idea if you want to do this type of work for a career. This is also the time to rely on your adviser regarding graduate school and future employment. They will give you good advice and guide you towards your career goals. The students who are dedicated and work hard will find good jobs. Unfortunately, those that skip class to go fishing may find it more challenging!
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  12. Krusty

    Krusty Active Member

    'Methinks' is an archaic and pretentious verb, primarily utilized in derogatory debate. This young man deserves better than discouragement in the guise of informed 'advice'.
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  13. Red Arch

    Red Arch Active Member

    I'm pursuing a Natural Resource Science Degree right now in BC. I grew up here (refers to BC) and am looking at getting into fisheries.

    What I know is that fisheries alone is super competitive, as a result I am looking at doing a masters as well to give me that little bit extra, as well as study abroad etc...

    With aquatic entomology I expect it is very tough to get into, but you are certainly on the right track. You have found a passion and being an aquatic entomologist will do a couple things, namely help you match the hatch, and also understand aquatic insect cycles. It will also allow you to understand the more complex relationships between insects water quality, fish etc...

    My advice to you is look for a program with a good solid undergraduate degree that is designed to give you the skills needed in multiple areas. Make sure they have at least one course in aquatic entomology at that school, and if possible use one elective for another aquatic ento course and the other for studying abroad. Employers (at least those north of the 49th) love international experiences, and by having background in other areas it allows you to fall back to a holding job in case you cannot get one in your target field at the time.

    Also get to know your profs. A lot of the game now is who you know. Employers would rather take a risk on a person they know (or has been recommended) then someone who is unknown. There have been instances were people receive a phone call asking if they want a job, and the company hiring never posted, but the person was recommended. That being said always look for jobs, you are never sure what will pop up and also if possible get your summer job in a related field.

    Good luck!
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  14. snarlac

    snarlac Member


    Young man deserves honesty, not anyone's false encouragement; and - upon rereading my last post; honesty is what he is getting from me - not discouragement, and insults disguised as word-picking, as from you. You can pick all you want, but to label truth as cynicism in itself, is dishonest. It is also bad career advice. No one gets into this field from "hard work" alone; there are significant culling factors that anyone starting out needs to know about, and realize as such, that their job prospects are not good. These include factors totally unrelated to work ethic: for example, your personality, your innate intellect (creativity, problem-solving ability, reading speed - things that are partially reflected in standardized tests), your height, appearance, sex, and -where applicable- your minority background; add to that luck ("right place and time");your suite of jokes, body language; and a multitude of other factors - makes job prospects in those "interesting" biological disciplines that much less.

    But the main point, is there just aren't many jobs, and far too many applicants - mostly PhD's. Any other debate beyond this is secondary.

    The overburdgeoning ranks of underemployed biologists is neither new, nor un-noticed; starting at least in the mid-1970's (article entitled "too many graduate students in ecology"; published in the academic journal, Ecology ~ 1975; don't have the reference in front of me), and continues to the present (last month's article entitled "is it time to redefine the "alternative" career path for ecologists?"; see Hansen et. al. 2014. pp. 2-7. in Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin. Volume 23(1). February 2014).

    "Methinks" in the context of my last post, was merely my opinion on when the OP (teenage entomologist), will come to appreciate the fact-based reality of the job market for a discipline, in this case, aquatic entomology - which can be generalized to most other fields of ecology or environmental science. I would encourage TE, and others, to learn the facts and reality in prospective career paths, before they choose them. For this - TE should be applauded for asking the question - let's tell him the truth, not some pleasantry that others want to hear.

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