A day on the job with...Gabby Sosa

1. What organization do you work for, and how long have you been in your current position?

I work as an Ecologist in the National Rangelands Management & Vegetation Ecology staff at the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Office. I began working for this agency over a year and a half ago after I completed my PhD comprehensive exams at Texas A&M University. I was hired through the Chief’s Scholars leadership training program. The goal of this graduate student hiring program is to recruit talented natural resource professionals who are committed to furthering the diversity and inclusivity goals of the agency.

2. List your previous jobs and educational background as well. What are your previous jobs and educational background, and how have they prepared you for your current position?

I am an Applied Ecologist with experience working in semi-arid, tropical and coastal ecosystems. I initially joined the agency as a Policy Analyst in the National Partnership Office. I am also a PhD Candidate in the Department of Ecosystem Science & Management at Texas A&M University. Prior to pursuing a PhD, I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master’s degree in Rangeland Ecology and Management from Texas A&M University. In my current position at the U.S. Forest Service, I contribute my academic and professional expertise to efforts that conserve and restore our nation’s natural resources for present and future generations.

3. What are some of your primary duties at your current job?

I assist the National Vegetation Ecology Program in Washington, D.C. on several projects and initia- tives. Our team provides direction to our agency’s Ecology, Botany, and Invasive Species Management programs. We work in a fast-paced environment where we frequently discuss and provide guidance on policy issues related to grazing management, landscape ecology, restoration, watershed management, and climate change. As a member of this staff I am also tasked with developing collaborative relationships and partnerships with external stakeholders and with other land management agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Natural Resources Conservation Ser- vice (NRCS).

4. Please list the things you like most about your job (For example, conducting research, working with agricultural producers, etc.)

As a young professional I feel fortunate that I get to work alongside a team of experts in the fields of Ecology and Rangeland Management. I also have a great mentor who encourages me as I transition from an academic and research setting into my current position with the agency. Above all, I enjoy knowing that through this position I can apply my background in science to promote sustainable land management policies on our federal lands.

5. Now, list some things about your current job which could possibly be improved (For exam- ple, amount and redundancy of paperwork required, funding availability, etc.)

The U.S. Forest Service is the largest natural resource research organization in the world. Given the extent and diversity of the landscapes we manage, we are constantly challenged with providing timely and well informed land management decisions that maintain and improve the function and resilience of our ecosystems. However, for us to excel in achieving our agency’s mission of serving all segments of American society, we must promote the establishment of a more diverse and multicultural workforce. We should have a work environment where everyone is respected, and underrepresented employees will be encouraged to share their land stewardship and management perspectives. Ultimately, we should improve and increase the impact of our agency’s service within our increasingly diverse com- munities.

6. Overall, what qualities of person would you consider to be best suited to your current position (For example, analytical, good communicator, experienced in land management, etc.)

You have to be willing to tackle ambitious deadlines and be part of a team. A typical day in the Washington Office is always hectic and the work priorities are constantly changing. Having excellent communication skills and being a dedicated professional is essential. You must also be confident in your ability to provide analytical rigor when you are tasked with examining the dynamic complexity of eco- logical systems.

7. Are there any general comments or advice you would like to offer to young professionals in the range field?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get as much field and professional experience as possible, these experiences are priceless for you and your future employer. If you are an undergraduate, I recommend you take a few classes outside your major. It will allow you to see the challenges being faced by other disciplines and also provide you with a different perspective when you begin interacting professionally with others who may not have a similar academic background. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to solve today’s environmental issues.

8. Lastly, tell us an amusing story about a day on your job. What is the funniest or most unique thing that you have experienced?

A few weeks ago, I won a karaoke singing contest during a charity lunch at work. That was fun!