Wild in the World: Catching Up With Sebastian Harris

At Wildlands, our mission is strengthened by our community.  The organization educates about a dozen interns each year, which adds up to LOTS of conservation-minded  folks headed into a wide array of careers. We recently caught up with former Wildlands intern, Environmental Educator, and artist Sebastian Harris, to see what he’s up to these days!

Tell us about your current career position.

I currently work for the USDA and Dr. Miriam Cooperband, assisting with various research projects centered around Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) ecology. When time permits, I volunteer as a field technician for Dr. Thomas LaDuke’s Timber Rattlesnake Monitoring Project, which is the project my Master’s thesis stemmed from.

What brought you to Wildlands?

When I got to Delaware Valley College (now University) a friend of mine, Lauren Hamory, posted on her Facebook that she was hired as a naturalist (environmental educator) at Wildlands Conservancy. I inquired as to whether they were hiring any interns for the summer or 2011, and luckily they were. I spent a year as an intern and was hired as a naturalist (environmental educator) the following summer.

How did your experience with Wildlands inform your career path?

Having been confined to and raised within the inner city of Allentown, I had virtually no exposure to nature prior to interning at Wildlands. I started at Wildlands with nothing other than curiosity and a passion for Herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles). (Wildlands educators) Maureen Ruhe, Denise Bauer, and Lisa Dally provided me with a foundation of natural history knowledge beyond the field of Herpetology, which I built upon after I moved on from the organization. I owe so much to them!

What advice do you have for others looking to launch a career in a conservation-related field?

Don’t allow self doubt to prevent you from taking opportunities when they present themselves. If I could make it this far as a first generation college graduate with no exposure to nature, I’ve no doubt that you can to!  Meet AS MANY people as you can and make good impressions. Connections go a long way, especially when your work ethic impresses those established in the field. Lastly, don’t let your passion for conservation fade. I’ve found that even in the darker moments of my career pursuit, I could always find comfort in knowing that I pursued something I truly care about.

You're also an artist, can you tell us about your work?

I use photoshop to produce nature and conservation related graphics, though I usually flesh out the ideas on paper beforehand. I come from a family of artists, so much of my inspiration comes from them. Of course, conservation and ecology provide inspiration for the subject matter. Ultimately, my goal is to use my art to 1. raise awareness for conservation 2. raise some money for conservation & 3. inspire the public by highlighting facets of nature (ecology, natural history, etc.) that tend to go unappreciated. You can find my work on my personal website www.sebastianaronh.com/artbysharris and on my Instagram page @artbysharris. I’m currently waiting on my first batch of stickers to come in, so stay tuned!

Why did you choose to focus on Herpetology?

Growing up in the city, I had no interaction with wildlife at all, so I’d say a big part of it was timing. I was born in 1992, and shows like Crocodile Hunter and Going Wild with Jeff Corwin were on TV while I was growing up. I was infatuated with reptiles, and snakes in particular, probably because they are misunderstood and vilified- sort of an underdog thing.

What is the biggest lesson you took from your experience with Wildlands?

The big picture lesson that I got was the power of educating young people (about conservation). In my work with Wildlands, I did a lot teaching with herpetofauna- it was always interesting to see how kids reacted versus their parents. Because children hadn’t been influenced, they were always so much less afraid than the adults.  This was even solidified for me when I had experience teaching college kids.  Children are just so receptive to knowledge.

To learn more about internship and career opportunities with conservation in mind, visit Wildlands career page!