Live Event: February 9, 2017 at 1:00pm Eastern
Dr. Roland Kays is a Wildlife Biologist at NC Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University where he helps conserve wildlife, train students in science, and engage the public in animal conservation. He splits his time between teaching, research, and field work.
Learn More About Roland
What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Off road Unicycling, ultimate frisbee, camping, hiking, bird watching
What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
What song do you listen to most often?
Phish: David Bowie
Who do you look up to and admire?
Highest degree attained
West Bloomfield High School (MI), Cornell University (undergrad), University of Tennessee (PhD)
Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school
What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
Being student athlete
Joint position with NC Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University
Lab Head and Associate Research Professor
Biologist/zoologist/ecologist/wildlife biologist etc… (pick one)
Years in this organization/position
What does your organization do?
Research and education
What is your role in the organization?
Direct research, train students, engage the public
Describe your work environment
The lab is a big glassed-in space that is on exhibit, so museum visitors see us working.
What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
Camera traps, GPS tracking collars, mapping software, statistical software, excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint
Describe a typical day in your job
Write a paper, review student’s writing, check email in the morning, teach a class, meet with students or colleagues in the afternoon, see a talk by another scientist.
Alternative: in the field, get up and go check camera traps or radio-track animals in the forest for 1/2 the day, organize field assistants and data the rest.
Describe an atypical day in your job
Last year I was in the field on mount Kenya for 1 month, we were setting camera traps and mouse traps and checking them. Lots of days sleeping in a tent and getting up to tromp around the rainforest cutting trails, exploring waterfalls, hiking in the rain and sleet, looking for mammals.
How is the work you do important to society?
Helps conserve wildlife, train students in science, engage the public in animal conservation and nature in general.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
Discovery of a new species, the olinguito. Discovery that eastern coyotes are coyote/dog/wolf hybrids.
What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
State-wide citizen science camera trapping. GPS anklet tracking of orangutans. GPS tracking of fruit-eating mammals in Panama as an intelligence test.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Getting grants to do interesting research, paperwork associated with these grants.
What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
Got pinched by an anteater.
Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role
PhD student and Teaching Assistant, UT
Post Doc – Field Museum in Chicago
Mammal Curator – NY State Museum
Other positions not necessarily related to your current career
Gas station attendant, pizza delivery, tennis court maintenance.
Best job you’ve ever had and why
Present – combines research in the field and working with students and engaging the public.
Worst job you’ve ever had and why
NY State Museum job was great for 10 years but then suddenly got ridiculous amounts of paperwork before anything could get done.
What were you like as a kid?
Small, tough, outdoorsy, science nerd, good wrestler, boy scout.
What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
My Side of the Mountain (book). Star Wars.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
12 & 15 – Don’t know
18 – Genetic engineer
When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
Check out this page for the answer: http://science.unctv.org/content/whats-my-story-zoologist
Who inspired you on this path?
Mammalogist Dr. Deedra McClearn
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what career might you have pursued?
Wildlife photographer or filmmaker.
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
It’s not all science — writing, math and communication are also super important.
What advice would you give students in general?
You don’t have to do what you love to love what you do.
What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Kenya, Zambia