island conservation paula castano field

Women’s History Month: Paula Castaño & Dr. Felicia B. Nutter

In honor of Women’s History Month, Restoration Specialist Paula Castaño reflects on a woman whose work inspires her to protect wildlife and advance conservation.

By: Paula Castaño

I have had the privilege of being surrounded by many amazing women in science throughout my career development. Each and every one of them has helped me become what I am today and to reach my long-term career goals in conservation. However, one of them has a special place in my heart as she was and has always been there to support me throughout my development as a young scientist. In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m pleased to share how Dr. Felicia B. Nutter has contributed to my growth as a conservationist.

Dr. Nutter is a wildlife veterinarian, epidemiologist, and conservationist that has worked in the African forests of Rwanda to aid the conservation of mountain gorillas, supervised the animal care of seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, and currently is the Director for the International Veterinary Medicine Program at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Senior Technical Veterinary Officer for the USAID One Health Workforce (RESPOND project) for Southeast Asia.

island conservation paula castano silverback gorilla

Silverback Mountain Gorilla. Credit: Rod Waddington

Her career path is an example of the broadening and important role that wildlife veterinarians have in conservation but also our global and changing society. It is also a good representation of what it means to work in the field of conservation medicine and take this approach to global health and biodiversity conservation. As wildlife veterinarians or veterinarians in general, we always tend to focus on the immediate impact we can have on the individual animal health, however, if we want to have a greater impact and protect entire populations, we need to tackle the issues at the larger scale, where interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers, field biologists, veterinarians, physicians, land managers, public health officials, educators and others is essential for achieving these goals.

Like Felicia, I’m a wildlife veterinarian. I had the opportunity to cross paths with Felicia during my Masters in Conservation Medicine at Tufts University, where she served as my supervisor. During these years I was able to find in Felicia not only a mentor but also a friend. She was very supportive and made me feel empowered and capable of reaching any goal I set for myself. I still remembered her giving me what I believe some of the best advice I’ve ever received:

Every time you get the opportunity to work with other colleagues during an externship or any job, please remember to be attentive and willing to learn as much as possible and do any work that they may ask you to do, even though it may not be as exciting as being in the field.

Since that day, I have always held this advice as my mantra. I believe this advice has brought me closer to achieving my long-term career goals in conservation and becoming a Woman in Science, and has helped me get to where I am today: working as an Island Restoration Specialist (with a focus on native species) for Island Conservation in the amazing Galapagos Islands. In this position, not only do I have the opportunity to work and live in one of the most amazing places in the world, but I also have the opportunity to made a real impact on biodiversity conservation and global health. As the Native Species Specialist for one of our big projects here in Galapagos, “The Floreana Ecological Restoration Project,” I’m helping every day by bringing my unique set of skills as a wildlife veterinarian with a background in conservation medicine to prevent extinctions and ecologically restore the Galapagos ecosystems.

island conservation paula castano field Women's History Month

Monitoring native wildlife on Pinzón Island, Galápagos.

Featured photos: Left: Paula Castaño handling a Galápagos Short-eared Owl. Right: Dr. Felicia B. Nutter working with Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.

About Paula Castaño

Paula A. Castaño is a wildlife veterinarian with an MSc in conservation medicine and a background in raptor medicine and island restoration. Since 2013, she has been working in the Galápagos Islands with Island Conservation, providing technical assistance to the Galápagos National Park to prevent extinctions and restore Galápagos ecosystems. Currently she is involved in the Floreana Island Ecological Restoration Project as a Native Species Specialist and coordinates all environmental aspects of the project, including species reintroduction.

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