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College Outreach Update from Emilia Tercjak

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Every semester you meet new people in college – new classes, new professors, new workload, and new students to work with.   The most common question is, “Why are you studying biology?” or “Why is biology your major?”

Most students respond, “I am a pre-med student” or “I want to be a biology teacher.”  When I am asked that question, my response is, “I am studying biology, so when I graduate, I can work with others to aid in the protection, conservation and research of the gray wolf.”

The reactions never cease to amuse me.  “Oh my god! That’s so weird. Aren’t you afraid of being attacked?” or “Hmm, that’s different,” or the “ Wow, that’s amazing.  I wish you luck,” response.

Some students even examine the topic a little bit more and ask me questions about wolves. They ask if I’ve ever seen a wolf in the wild, why do I like wolves, if there are wolves on the east coast, and most of the time, and  it’s the simple question of why.  Why am I, a New York City born and raised college student, who is supposed to be the most urbanized and jaded of all people in the United States, so intrigued by an animal so wild and far away from my current home?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Wolves have a special place in my heart because they are misjudged and misinterpreted by many people due to myths, religious beliefs and irrational fears. Just like people who are misjudged and misinterpreted for being different. That is my usual explanation to a fellow students who has asked me why I am doing what I am doing.

Sometimes, I get a student who is so intrigued about my goal that they would just come up and talk to me after class and ask me what’s going on with wolves this week.  As always, the answer I give would be different from the last because wolf news changes every week and not always in the positive way.   Some students don’t understand when I tell them about people hunting wolves and killing them for sport. I tell them about the cherished wolves we have lost and why they were so special. I tell them about pack dynamics and how similar wolf pack functions are to our own human family functions. I tell them everything I know or what they want to hear and most cannot believe that there is so much going on with wolves that is never reported in the news or broadcasted about on the radio.

As a university adviser for Wolfwatcher, I have learned many things through the organization and have shared it with many students. I have given out my Wolfwatcher email to any student interested in contacting me about any other things that have to do with wolves. I have talked to professors about my goals and have left an influential imprint on them, receiving support back. I still want to do more in the efforts of advocating, such as creating presentations about wolves to present to high school seniors around NYC.  I also want to explore the creation an organization focused on reaching out to high schools specifically and giving them information about careers in biology and science, especially for future high school students in urban areas such as NYC. 

My hope is to try and instill a strong interest in biology or sciences with an eventual career choice in the field.  We so desperately need more wildlife biologists in the U.S. to work in conservation. Personally, I hope to be on a team working next to wolf biologists when I graduate from grad school.  I have many goals to accomplish; I have had to overcome many obstacles, but I am still reaching for what I believe in: peaceful existence between humans and wolves can happen.  All you need is cooperation and collaboration. Coexistence will be the end goal.

~Emilia Tercjak


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