Into the Wild: Reflecting on SEE’s Environmental Exchange

Published July 11, 2017

In 2014, Pavel Dimens traveled to the Baikal region in Russia and then to the United States, where he went on several field trips exploring National Parks and wildlife refuges. Pavel took these formative journeys as an Emerging Professional, part of a SEE-funded exchange program that evolved into the contemporary Independent Professionals Project Initiative. During the exchange, Pavel focused on comparing approaches to land use and managing nature reserve systems in the US and Russia.

“Prior to this [exchange], I had never been exposed to Bear River Migratory Refuge or the National Elk Wildlife Refuge. Seeing these systems and speaking with the staff that work hard to maintain [the nature reserves] was very insightful. The Siberian leg of the trip was equally insightful … being in the villages/towns near [the nature reserves], you gain an understanding of the mindset of the locals and their attitudes. In learning [about] the actual culture, you develop a deeper understanding about the obstacles, goals, and motivation for these preservation systems.”

Pavel looks back on his participation in the SEE-supported exchange as a challenging adventure that prepared him for the rigorous demands of a life in academia and environmental research.

“On paper, it may not look like there is much overlap between my work with SEE and my current scientific pursuits, but SEE prepared me for … the latent challenges of this work, which [require] adaptability and resilience,” says Pavel.

After finishing his SEE exchange, Pavel returned to the laboratory at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab as the project manager of a study examining the chemical composition of sediment. The study focused on discovering connections between nearby industry outflow and the radioisotopes in the ground beneath a local lake. Soon thereafter, Pavel began a Master’s program at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, where he studied a species of highly migratory small coastal shark, tracking the species’ distribution and population discontinuities across the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. He also spent 3 weeks out at sea as a volunteer researcher on a NOAA research cruise, and came to be the manager of a multi-year longline study taking place in the Corpus Christi Bay.

“You should always reflect on the things you do and see how they can be the foundation of ways to improve yourself down the line,” said Pavel in relation to his experiences with SEE.

Pavel successfully defending his thesis in October (2016), and has since joined the PhD program at the University of Southern Mississippi. In his dissertation, he is investigating the population genetics of highly migratory fishes across the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Do you have impactful projects like Pavel’s that you would like to realize? Do you want to make connections between experts in the US and Russia? Apply to become an Independent Professional! More information about the Independent Professionals Project Initiative is available here.