Alumni Profiles - Meet Allison Sussman
Hometown: Ashton, MD
Year of Graduation: 2008
Major: Wildlife Conservation
Undergraduate Campus Involvement:
Wildlife Society, Ag Ambassadors, Alpha Zeta
Current Position of Employment or Education:
Describe your best Ag experience:
I had many great experiences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, but my two study abroad trips definitely rank highest. I was lucky enough to participate in the Tanzania and Argentina/Antarctica programs while in my undergrad studies at UD. They were both incredibly unique experiences that gave me memories and friendships to last a lifetime. I was able to travel to those foreign countries and apply the knowledge I gained from my classes to real world situations. I learned so much about wildlife and eco-tourism that I would not have been able to fully understand inside the classroom. Having the opportunity to interact with people of different cultures added to the unique experience, and is something I don't think I would have been able to do if I traveled to these places on my own. The study abroad program at UD is incredible and worth every penny.
Which Ag course was your favorite and why?
It's hard to pick a favorite course because I enjoyed all of my core major classes, even the tough ones! Though I think my favorite was probably Ornithology. My father is an avid bird watcher and I loved bird watching from an early age. So I went into the class with a love for birds and I was able to take my passion for the hobby and turn it into a great learning experience. It was very rewarding for me to use my background and knowledge in class and then in the field, even helping some of my classmates. Learning the bird taxonomy was difficult but has become incredibly useful in both my bird watching hobby and career. Having great professors in courses makes all the difference and I think the Entomology and Wildlife Ecology department has some of the best the Ag school has to offer!
Tell us about your current position or program of study and what led you to that field.
I'm working at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD; I help manage and maintain several nationwide bird databases including the Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) database and the Bird Point Count (which includes the Marshbird monitoring program) database. I assist users with an online data entry system and help with their data management. I assist coordinators in setting up their programs in the databases, and on occasion get to do some fieldwork during the breeding season. I maintain the websites which allow people to enter their data into the databases. I create and maintain breeding distribution maps for bird species and have helped several atlases with their book publications (MD, VT) at the end of their project. And most recently, I've begun working on the Atlantic Offshore Seabird Database through a partnership between USGS and BOEM to create maps and disseminate data so that decisions on offshore wind turbine placement can be made.
How did your College of Ag experiences prepare you for your current job or post-graduate education?
My experiences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) prepared me for my career in many ways. Without the help of my advisor I wouldn’t have heard about the summer job position which led to my full time job after graduation. My advisor guided me every step of the way through my college career and right on into the real world. The courses I took allowed me to have the background and experience required for my job. Being involved in so many different activities helped me network with people in my field and got my foot in the door with many people. The CANR shaped who I am today and I will always be grateful to the professors and staff who helped me get here.
What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
My advice to students is to get involved and get to know your professors. I wouldn’t be where I am today without having been involved with so many activities in the CANR. My professors, and more specifically my advisor, helped me along the way and continued to support me when needed. And definitely don’t give up. As hard as it may be to believe, there are jobs out there, you just have to find what’s right for you, so don’t be discouraged by the poor economy and bad job market. Just keep looking, find what's best for you and good luck!