95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OPS 5-2 - Transitioning from graduate school to professional scientist: mate choice and reproductive success in early career ecologists

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Exhibit Hall A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Kimberly A. Sullivan, Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT, Amanda V. Bakian, Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT and Ethan P. White, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

Among biologists the largest leak in the pipeline for women occurs between earning a Ph.D. and finding employment as a professional scientist.   We interviewed 159 participants at the ESA meeting in 2007 and 70 participants at ornithological meetings in 2006 and 2007 who were either in the final year of their Ph.D., in a postdoctoral or temporary position or in the first three years of a permanent position to better understand the choices men and women were making during the transition from graduate school to professional scientist. 


Retention differences between men and women appear to be the result of decisions women make about their personal lives in a competitive job market.  Relatively long graduate programs and multiple post-docs have pushed the age of obtaining a permanent job into the mid - late 30's for many individuals.  At this point, most interviewees were partnered.  Although most men and women met their partner in graduate school, women were more likely than men to have a partner in the same field.  Men and women desired the same types of jobs but women with partners were more likely change career goals, apply to few jobs and geographically restrict their job search to accommodate their partner’s career.   Single scientists were overrepresented among permanent job holders while individuals with partners in the same field were overrepresented among those holding temporary jobs for 3 or more years.   Ornithologists and animal ecologists perceived the job market as more competitive than ecologists in other disciplines.  Early career ornithologists had fewer children than early career ecologists who had fewer children than early career sociologists.   Field research appeared to interfere with reproduction for ornithologists and ecologists even though many study reproductive success.     We offer unorthodox advice on obtaining an ideal job and balancing career and family.