Panda researchers are responsible for collecting and recording data about these beautiful black-and-white bears. It is a very interesting job, according to Suzanne Hall, senior research technician at the Zoo's Giant Panda Research Station.
"There are two interesting parts about the job I most love," Suzanne says. "The travel, and working directly with animals. I often get to sit in a room with an animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs. for hours to observe and record its behaviorIn biology, an organism's activity in response to its environment. The study of animal behavior is called ethology.. You can't beat that for enjoyable. Also, I occasionally get to go places to observe other animals, and I love to travel. The Zoo has sent me to China and Mexico City to study pandas there."
As exciting and rewarding as the job of panda researcher is, there are challenges as well. Suzanne points out that it can be challenging to "get the sample sizes we need to have our results be meaningful. Sometimes we have to wait years to accumulate the number of bears we need to conduct one study. That's a long time to wait to see progress!"
One thing many researchers have learned is how much we have in common with our furry friends. "In my research of maternal care in bears, I have been inspired by how these furry, clawed, four-legged animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs. mothers have some of the same instincts and reactions to their young that I have to my own children," Suzanne explains. "We are not so different all of the time!"
There is a lot of preparation required to get a job like panda researcher. How does someone get a job like this? "Education matters," Suzanne advises. "You need at least a four-year college degree with a major in biologyThe study of life and living things. Biology deals with how plants and animals live and grow, how they are made, and where they are found., ecologyThe study of animals, plants, and their environment (the world around them)., psychology, or zoology. Experience helps. I volunteered for a few years on projects at the Zoo before I was hired. Persistence is a must: you may not get the job you want the first time you try for it. Finally, a little luck doesn't hurt: be in the right place at the right time. If you have all of the above, eventually the doors will open!"