Jessica Guptill

Jess-Guptill-2Jessica Guptill, B.S.
UNH Wildlife and Conservation Biology alum.

My name is Jessica Guptill. I am from New Hampshire, and I am currently still here. My path was not exactly ‘straight.’

I started college at 18 like most but I ended up dropping out due to financial issues. I lived in Maine for a few years and when I did finally end up back in NH, I knew I wanted to go back to school so I applied to UNH. I was initially enrolled in the Marine Biology program, but I switched to Wildlife and Conservation Biology because it better suited my academic and personal passions.

As an undergrad, I worked in Professor Rebecca Rowe’s lab. Having taken some time off “in the real world” before returning to school, I knew I needed experience in my intended field. Many jobs I’d considered applying to preferred 2-3 years of experience. The work I did in the Rowe lab came in handy when I applied for jobs after I graduated.

I didn’t limit myself when I started to apply for jobs – I applied to positions across the country. I was offered positions in Tennessee, Nevada, and Alaska. I accepted a job in Nevada but I was injured on the job and had to return to New Hampshire. It can be hard to get the specific job you want in the specific place you want to be. You may have to go somewhere else, expand the boundaries of what kinds of jobs you’re willing to do, or you have to get creative. Because I wasn’t able to move out of state, I got creative … I went into pest control.

Through my undergrad work in the Rowe lab, I learned about small mammal biology and behavior, and was able to apply that to my new position in pest control. I learned a lot about insects through my job in pest control. It made me wish I took entomology courses while in college because insects are fascinating. I ultimately had to leave that job when I became pregnant (pesticides are not good for fetuses and young children, as exposure can cause chronic toxicity and acute harm the fetus). Before I found out I was pregnant, I had applied to a state job. The state was hiring for an Environmentalist in the Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food Division of Pesticide control. I ended up getting a call at the end of my pregnancy asking me to interview. Moral of this part of the story: government employers can take a long time to get back to you after you apply for a job. … I did get the position.

I am the Pesticide Product Registrar and IPM Coordinator, and I am training to be an inspector. In my position, I work to ensure that environmental laws are being enforced and applicators are using pesticides correctly. I teach people about other approaches to use prior to resorting to pesticide use.

My biggest advice while you are still in school is …

Get as much experience as you can doing different things – terrestrial, aquatic, grant-writing, communication.

Go to the career fairs; you can make some great connections there that will help you get your foot in the door.

Don’t be afraid to network, if you know someone in the field or working where you want, ask them for help or advice.