Alexis Blanchard ’20 just returned from a summer internship in Alaska. The wildlife and conservation biology major from Astoria, New York, took some time to tell us about her experience, her love of animals and why she will never stop learning.
Blanchard: For my internship, I worked for the Forest Service through the Student Conservation Society as a Fish and Wildlife Technician. I primarily worked in a remote area of Alaska, only accessible by boat or plane, hiking long hours in deep bear territory to perform Goshawk surveys in timber plots. This position was incredible in every sense of the word — providing me with mentors, pushing me well beyond my comfort zone, teaching me more than I could have imagined I could learn in only a few short months, and testing me both mentally and physically.
Blanchard: I am most proud of switching my major. I started out as an animal science pre-vet major, but not really sure which direction I was going — I just knew I wanted to work with animals.
I stumbled across Sigma Alpha, a professional agriculture sorority, and shortly after joining I was shown a million and one different career options. Another member in particular inspired me, and I was interested in her major so she let me shadow her at her internship. I fell in love with wildlife and took my time working at a zoo before convincing myself that wildlife was the right major for me.
Once I switched, I never looked back. I have been so happy with my major change, knowing that each class brings me closer to doing what I want to do.
Blanchard: By far Prof. Purrenhage is my favorite professor. I had her as a professor during my ConnectSTEM pre-college session before freshman year started, and she set the bar for professors pretty high. I took a class with her over a year later and realized she truly was one of the best professors that UNH has to offer.
She is incredibly dedicated to her work, and even more dedicated (which shouldn't be possible) to her students. She is one of the busiest people I know, but will always make time to have a good conversation. She has so much knowledge on so many things that could make or break your career she should write a book. As a professor she is understanding, empathetic, witty, put-together and always has amazing visual aids.
Blanchard: I have always wanted to work with animals — it has been a desire since I was 4 years old, according to my family. I was always more interested in working with animals, protecting them and making sure they were happy, than with anything else. Personally, I find learning about animals to be the most diverse and interesting major in the world.
There are more species with more specialized behavior and skills than there are people on this planet by ten fold easily. There is an exception to every rule, there is always a weirder animal, a more obscure behavior, a more specialized physical feature — there is in no way that any one person could hope to learn them all. Which means that the learning is never done — animals never get boring. Add onto that the individual personalities and you have a career that focuses on something that is ever changing.
Blanchard: The classes provided by the Natural Resource department are so heavily focused on actually going into the woods and applying what we learned. That key aspect to making it physical is the single most important thing that UNH has done to prepare me for achieving my goals in the natural resources field.
Blanchard: After graduation I plan on working as a wildlife biologist for a few years, traveling and gaining experience before I go back and get a masters.
Blanchard: The flexibility to do and become whomever you want. That is often scary to people because UNH offers a thousand and one different programs, majors, courses, clubs, teams and more but it can really help you bounce around until you realize what clicks with you. Exploring a bunch of different options can really help shape you into who you want to be — because knowing what you don't like or don't want to do as a career is often more helpful than knowing what you do like.