What is my dream job? To tell you the truth, I can not decide upon just one job. My dream job is actually a combination of two very distinct careers but fortunately, they do mesh very nicely.
1. Science Teacher
I'm proud to say that I have had the fortunate opportunity to work as an elementary science teacher for 4 years. In that time, I also worked with high school science students (they served as field guides & 'teachers' on on our annual field trips). It was an amazing job - teach science to 4th-6th grade students, all hands-on learning! Fun for me! Fun for the students!
2. Research Biologist
In the summer of 2001, I had the opportunity to live the life of a research biologist as part of an Earthwatch team. I have a fondness for insects and have always wanted to see the rainforest, I therefore selected the "Rainforest Caterpillars" expedition in Ecuador. Dr. Lee Dyer, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University, was the lead scientist on this project.
Here is a summary of the project taken from Earthwatch's website:
"Perched on the east slope of the Andes above the Amazon basin, the cloud forest of Ecuador hosts thousands of different caterpillar species, and an equally impressive diversity of plants. Caterpillars in Ecuador and elsewhere have a variety of strategies designed to break through plant defenses and protect against parasites and predators. Whether they grow stinging 'hairs', develop immunity to specific plant toxins, or frantically wiggle their way to freedom, these caterpillars must figure out how to keep the food sources coming without becoming food themselves. At Yanayacu, you can help Dr. Lee Dyer study how the survival strategies of caterpillars, plants, and parasites are affected by a changing climate. This data will be compared with that collected at Dyer's research sites in Costa Rica, Arizona, and Louisiana painting an ecological picture that spans the hemisphere.
You'll work with Dyer and a team of researchers from Ecuador and around the globe, collecting both healthy and parasitic caterpillars as well as host plants. In the open-air laboratory, you'll help rear caterpillars at all stages of their life cycles and record their relationships with plants and parasites. When you're not unrolling leaves in search of telltale caterpillar signs or labeling specimens in the lab, you can enjoy striking views of the cloud-covered Andes, scan the trees in the neighboring Antisana Reserve for some of Ecuador's over 1,550 bird species, or chat with other researchers staying at the station.
The Yanayacu Biological Station serves as a base for researchers studying the many plants, birds, spiders, caterpillars and other unique species of the cloud forest. Ecuadorian staff members will prepare typical Latin American fare for you at the station, where you will share a basic room with one to five other team members. The station offers hot water showers, flush toilets, generator-powered electricity, and a computer room with limited internet access."
Check out Dyer's caterpillar website for more information on these intriguing critters.
So in essense, I've lived my dream job, although for only a short time. When my children are older, I look forward to returning to the classroom (part-time? as a volunteer science teacher?). I love exploring the world around me, learning how our natural world interacts. Even more, I love sharing this love with young children. :)