Monkey Forest Tales: Why I leave academy to focus only on research at a local scale?

After doing a doctorate most of us choose a path in academy, usually as a professor in a university. For many years that was also my career path. When I was in the middle of my career as a biology, I had the incredible experience of doing a field semester studying monkeys in Tinigua National Park. It was there that I choose how my future live would look…a university professor with a research project focus in monkeys at my country, Colombia.

Over the years I worker towards that goal, made a master and a doctorate and was lucky enough to start a small research project that growth with time and have allow me to learn about monkey living in a fragmented landscape surrounded by several human activities…

After finishing my doctorate, as well as so many others, I apply for jobs and post doc position that could lead me towards my goal of became a university professor. It was while doing my first and only post doc that I realized that academy wasn’t for me. Pressure and unethical practices of publishing as well as living in a culture that was completely different than mine and in a language that take years to master, lead to make think on my priorities in life and what I wanted for my future. Although it is different for everyone and it’s a decision that only you can make for your own life. Academy system and culture had led many good researchers and me to look for better options outside of universities.

Although I still teach one on one undergraduate students, while I supervise their undergraduate thesis, as well as publishing from time to time. I do not have the pressure of “publish or perish” that academy system promotes so much. And from time to time I saw post doc offers that make think about going back to academy. But the true is that I enjoy helping student without the pressure and publishing only when I want to not because I must. I also can go to the field to see monkeys anytime I want without a schedule and just enjoy the forest and monkeys by what they really are not what they can give me as research subjects. I must admit I miss the dynamic discussion with peers that universities give you…

So, although most of the time Zocay Project runs with limited funds I like the work at a small scale with few farmers and creating small impact on the wildlife in the study area. It becomes challenging and lonely sometimes, but it has been rewarding especially over the past few year when I saw the impact the project had on some of the local people behaviors. So, despite all the changes in my career and the challenges those changes had brought, leaving academy was a good decision for me and my project. So, if you are in a point in your life when you need to make a decision that affect your career path, just make sure you think about what make you happy as well as what kind of impact you want your life make. Good luck!

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