Theresa Laverty '10

back to profiles page


Name: Theresa Laverty
Job: Research Assistant for a MPI Mountain Gorilla Project
Current City: Ruhija, Uganda
School: Princeton - Class of 2010
Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Social Media:

Blog - From Tigers to Lions

My Story

I graduated in 2010 with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. My major provided me with several opportunities to go abroad, which completely redirected my career goals. In a little over a year, I spent a semester in Panama, conducted my thesis research on crocodilians in the Peruvian Amazon, and spent half a semester in Kenya. My original plans to go directly into medical school after Princeton were sidetracked by my new inspiration: to become a field ecologist.

A little over two weeks after graduating, I found myself just north of the equator in Kenya, working at Mpala Research Centre through a one-year Princeton in Africa fellowship. I was an assistant to the research station’s director, getting my fair share of experience in both office work and fieldwork. Besides working on an elephant monitoring project and a camera-trapping (motion-sensored cameras) project, what I found to be immensely helpful was living at an international research station where I received tons of career advice from people in all different stages of their careers.

After my PiAf fellowship, I spent a summer in Yellowstone National Park working for a University of Wyoming Ph.D. student, who was investigating the keystone role of American red squirrels in lodgepole pine forests. Afterward, I returned to Kenya for another five-month contract working on a rangeland restoration ecology project before moving to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Currently, I am stationed at the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda. I’m working as a research assistant on a project under Dr. Martha Robbins of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. I am responsible for collecting behavioral data on one group of habituated mountain gorillas, focusing on the influence of ecology on social relationships, reproductive strategies, and feeding ecology. When I'm not camping in the field or entering data back at the research station, I also am involved in conservation education activities at local primary schools.


Getting experience in ecology-related jobs often requires working for little or no money- not something many people expected of me after I received a degree from Princeton. Apply to many different positions and take advantage of the opportunities you might come across, especially ones that might allow you to co-author a paper in a peer-reviewed journal. Programs like Princeton in Africa are a great start and provide a network of fellows to support you throughout your placement year and beyond. Since then, I’ve relied on internet job boards (like the job boards for the Society of Conservation Biology, Texas A&M, and University of Maryland) and networking to get me to where I am today.



Previous profile: Theresa Laverty '10

Next profile: Thomas Chen '09

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License