The challenges of being a single, female conservation scientist and finding strength in despair

 Photo Mansa Drasta Bista

Photo Mansa Drasta Bista

Hi Guys,

Its been a long time between posts I know but the last 4 months have been exceptionally challenging. I would never usually think to share the challenges. As scientists we really only want people to see the successes, the wins to get excited over. But I feel it is important to be real.....to show our humanity and vulnerability, particularly when we take that leap of faith and risk everything to pursue something that is hugely difficult but hopefully worthwhile.

Its been an incredibly lonely path....I've missed my family and friends terribly and have been coming to terms with sacrificing my own ability to have a family in the process which has hit me harder than I could ever realise. The constant concern over money to not only fund this project but allow me a quality of life where I don't have to watch every penny, has also been taking its toll....its exhausting applying for endless grants and receiving knock back after knock back. This combined with the challenges of being a female living abroad alone in a town that struggles with mental health issues, drug addiction and homelessness. Two weeks ago I was sexually assaulted while waiting for a bus. It was the tipping point for me.....it pushed me into such a state of despair that I really started to question whether all of this is worth it....

But I've realised that I'm not alone in all of this. The heartbreak I've experienced on this journey is nothing compared to what so many people have suffered because they endeavour to do something good for the planet and for others. They have given me strength and have reminded me that we can't give up when things get too hard.....our planet needs us not to give up! And the incredible support I've received has given me renewed hope where there looked like there was none.

 Photo Dibesh Karmacharya

Photo Dibesh Karmacharya

In positive news, I'm about to head to Kyrgyszstan on Friday to present our work at a special snow leopard symposium. It will be wonderful to finally meet all the inspirational people that have devoted their life to the conservation of this remarkable species! We are also very close to securing funding for the rest of the project.....I dare not breath.....and if so, will have Chemical Engineers and collaborators from the University of Calgary on board, and extending the technology to caribou, grey wolves and white tailed deer.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support....you give me reason to keep going.

xNat

Natalie Schmitt