Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rapid Assessment Program: A Conservationist's Dream Job

For anyone looking into a career in the scientific aspect of conservation, Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program has got to be an appealing choice. Conservation International (CI) is a world renown conservation organization based in Arlington, Virginia. Founded in 1987, CI’s mission statement is something along the lines of “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.” In 1990, CI founded the Rapid Assessment Program, more commonly known as the RAP. The description provided by CI’s website adequately describes just how badass the RAP is: “An ecological SWAT team that could accurately assess the health of an ecosystem in a fraction of the time it would normally take". Who wouldn’t want that job?

RAP operates in teams of 10-30 of top field biologists, bringing together many different strengths and specialties. These teams travel to the most remote, threatened, and biologically diverse areas of the world with one goal in mind: Find and describe as many species as possible. In a short but intense three to four weeks, these scientists find and catalog hundreds of species to get an idea of how biologically diverse an area is, and how this diversity is threatened. Then, back at the headquarters, they frantically prepare their reports and articles and use the data they gathered to help CI plan their conservation efforts more strategically. This program has been described as the most effective and powerful conservation tool of our time.

An ecological SWAT team. I still can’t get over it. That is perhaps the best description of any nonprofit organization ever. How awesome would it be to have that job? I can only hope my future will bring me closer to realizing this dream. Not only do these biodiversity defenders form a very effective and highly respected conservation effort but they also contribute largely to the academic field of biology. Since their founding, scientists working on rapid assessments have discovered over 1300 new species. For the size of this small program, this is a hugely impressive number.

As if this doesn’t sound good enough already, there is the icing on the cake: Travel. As a scientist in the RAP, you get to travel to the most beautiful and remote places in the world. This job often takes you to places that have never been walked by modern humans. Even better, these places are home to wildlife that have never been seen by modern humans. Although some scientists are required to live permanently in these remote locations for their work, an RAP scientist spends a perfect three weeks in the wildest places left, among the wildest of wildlife, and, most assuredly, with the wildest of coworkers.

The only thing is, you have to live in Virginia the rest of the time.

Posted by Kai Atkinson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This review makes me want to find out more about this fascinating conservation program - awesome.