As a high school student, Brittany Forslind spent hours watching the Discovery Channel and Nat Geo Wild. She loved programs that documented the natural world and captured the unique dynamics of animal interactions.
“Animal behavior always fascinated me,” says Forslind, a junior majoring in biology with a concentration in ecology.
In summer 2013, Forslind followed her passion, working a co-op job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex, New Jersey. She studied bog turtles and their habitats, baited and set traps for ducks and doves to determine how many were in the refuge, removed invasive plants and maintained trails. She studied the bat population to look for the effects of white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease that has killed more than 5.5 million bats in North America in recent years.
The experience confirmed that she is on the right career path.
“I loved the field work,” she says. “And I loved seeing all the different species.”
Forslind was among a growing number of students participating in the co-op program. Launched in 2012, in the plastics engineering department, the program has expanded to include the College of Sciences and the Manning School of Business. Students work for three or six months in Fortune 500 companies, emerging businesses, teaching hospitals, financial services firms and innovative start-ups to get professional experience while they earn their degrees.
During her co-op rotation, Forslind lived in housing at the refuge with students from other colleges. She liked applying what she’s learning in her courses to a real-world environment.
“I definitely feel more confident about what I want to do,” she says.
After spending her freshman year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Forslind transferred to UMass Lowell, where the biology program was a better fit for her. A graduate of Nashua High School North, she commuted to school and worked part time at Market Basket in her hometown. She is still exploring her career options but knows she wants to work in wildlife biology.
“Hands-on work is what I want to do,” she says.