Live Event: September 20, 2018 at 1:00pm Eastern (US)
Priscillia Miard is a postgraduate student at Universiti Sains Malaysia where she studies nocturnal mammals that live in the rainforest. Her research helps shed light on the distribution and behavior of these animals in order to help conserve their populations and shed light on the important roles they play in their environment.
Name: Priscillia Miard
Layman’s Title (ie. Biologist): Zoologist
Company: Universiti Sains Malaysia
Years in this organization/position?
What is your role in the organization?
I am a postgraduate student (PhD)
What type of science, technology, engineering or math do you use in your career? And how often do you use them?
For my work I use special technology such as thermal imaging or bioacoustics recorder to allow me to see the animals at night more efficiently and record their calls. And of course biostatistics is an important part of my research to analyze animals distribution, behavior and animals repertoire of calls.
How is the work you do important to society?
My work is related to human disturbed area and how animals are interacting with it. It is important to society as most of those animals are misunderstood but play important roles as pollinators, seed dispersers and pest control.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
I would say to be able to bring to the light of the public a really unknown and amazing species that is the colugo. Most people are afraid of the night just because it is an unknown world and so far everyone has been really interested to discover it. I would also say to have discovered a behavior is also an impressive accomplishment that I was not expecting.
What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
We are currently working on the distribution of nocturnal mammals in Malaysia to shed lights where most animals occurs. We are also starting soon a school outreach program to bring more people to discover the night and its life.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
The biggest challenge in my work is to make people care for something that no one does. Working in conservation is challenging but working with nocturnal animals that no one knows is even harder.
What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
I would start with the most scariest thing that happened to me. Once I was working in an area where elephants where. I was told that they were gone and that I could work again at night. During the day I could smell that they were still close but believed what people told me. And that particular night as I was going to enter the forest I could hear all the elephant around me. This was scary and I think I reacted well by just walking back slowly and I do believe they just warn me first that I was too close.
I would say the most exciting part is that I never expect anything during work and I am alway impress by how the animals behave close to me. To be able to see a wild animal just few meter away behaving as if you were not there is truly amazing.
Highest degree attained/ Schools attended?
MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University.
What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
I would say that having obtained my MSc with merit was extremely great as I had to do it in a language that was not my first language. I was never amongst the best in my previous school years in France but finding what you love and enjoying it makes it so much easier to succeed.
What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
I think during my education there was few challenges and not just one but that might be the case of most people. First of all I had the strength not to listen to specific teachers telling me that I was not good enough. I was constantly told you can do better or this is not for you you have to stop. One of my challenge was to work part time during most of my later education and when professors and fellow students keep on telling you you can do much better or we always have choices, I would say that this is not always true.
Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role:
My first internship happened to be in Borneo and that really was a dream come true after so many documentaries. There I knew that I wanted to do.
I also had the chance to work with the amazing Anna Nekaris, the world specialist on slow loris and her project the Little Fireface Project. There I learned so much and the night world is totally what I was attracted to.
Other positions not necessarily related to your current career:
I worked many different jobs that helped me for my current position. I used to work as a supervisor in a shop and this helped me a lot to understand how to manage a team of people and how to be better at it.
I also do a lot of volunteer work for NGO such a the Little Fireface Project, the Primate Society of Great Britain and now the Malaysian Primatological Society.
Best job you’ve ever had and why/Worst job you’ve ever had and why:
The best job I had this is a bit complicated as I never had a paid job I really enjoyed as much as working in the field and studying animals. But I would say that one of the job I really enjoyed was working in a pastry shop for Christmas as I was eating so much chocolate and cakes.
The worst job I ever had is by far working at McDonalds during my study. The working atmosphere is terrible and I knew that it was not something for me even if I worked there for 7 month. I was always tired physically and mentally and the working conditions are the worst. People expect you to do more than you can actually do and it does not matter how hard or good you work.
What were you like as a kid?
As a kid I was spending most of my time outside as I always had a lot of energy, I really enjoyed it. My parents moved houses a lot so I changed school a lot and never had long term friends. My favorite time was always going to see my grandma as she had an amazing job. She was a gardener for Castle and was living in a small house on the side. I could spend so much time going around the huge gardens and woods surrounding the places she used to work at. There was also always a lot of animals near by either in the woods or at the farm for me to enjoy.
Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college:
The classes I enjoyed the most was always the art class and the Biology class. I loved the art class as it was more abstract and the Biology class as I was always interested to learn more about animals and nature.
What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
I was always attracted by horror movies even as a child. I used to watch horror movies and TV show such as Xfiles with my mom. My favorites books where and still are Stephen King and a French writer called Bernard Werber. The latter used to write books only about ants and their life in a fiction way, I was amazed by it.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
I think when I was 12 I wanted to be a vet, but then by age 15 I was not really sure anymore what I wanted to do. We arrive in that age where we are a bit confused by everything and trying to find our place in society. By Age 18 I knew I could not be a vet because I was becoming bored with schools and my results were not good enough to do that.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
Until the age of 22 I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I liked biology and was attracted to the animal world. My first Internship in Borneo was when I realized what I wanted to do. Being in a place that I only seen in TV in the past was amazing. And also working at night for me was an evidence of what I really like to do. The forest at night is totally different than during the day and so much alive.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
Honestly this is an answer I cannot answer, I simply have no ideas. I worked a lot of different jobs in the past in restaurant, shops and others but nothing related at all to what I am doing now.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
I like to read a lot and practice yoga. It help me relax and help my body after intense work.
Do you play any musical instruments or play any sports?
I used to play martial arts but I have stopped now and would love to start again when I have more time and stop moving all over the place.
What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
My favorite non-science book is The Ants by Bernard Werber
What’s the most frequently played song?
I would say Have a Nice Day by Bon Jovi.
Who do you look up to and admire?
I do not look out for a specific person but for everyone who is fighting for what they believe. So often I hear people I wish I can do this or that but being afraid to do the first step to do it.
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
I would say that it is not an easy path, it is hard in today society but it is not impossible. To fight to protect nature is what humankind need nowadays or else everything is lost.
What advice would you give students in general?
My advice to student is to follow what they heart is telling them and to be aware of what everyone say but not too much. We have the strength in all of us to do what we want, we just need to be careful to not let others put us down. There is no such thing as a prefect path to do a job and discovering and changing road along the way is totally fine.
What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
I have travelled to many places in Europe, the US and most countries in Asia. For me the most interesting about everywhere I have been is to discover how people live and different cultures. We learn so much from others and things we might find different at first.