Program of the Month Q&A: Biology Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Bernadette Clabeaux ’05
Biology program Clinical Assistant Professor Bernadette Clabeaux, Ph.D., ’05 discovered her calling at a very young age. From taking care of her wide variety of childhood pets to exploring the nature and wildlife of her family’s land, she couldn’t deny her love for nature and animals. She always found observing and studying nature to be fascinating. As Dr. Clabeaux grew older, she realized that there are many different branches of biology and many ways to help save the environment. She found herself drawn to wildlife, ecology and conservation, and decided to pursue an education that would set her down this path.
An alumna of Medaille’s biology program herself, Dr. Clabeaux now teaches many of its courses, in addition to doing wildlife conservation work within the Western New York community. Here, she describes her work, the importance of biology and conservation in today’s day and age, and what makes Medaille’s program so effective.
How did your work in wildlife conservation get started? What does your current work involve?
Ever since I was a child, I felt called to restore and “save” the environment, even if it is in small ways. I started as a volunteer with local organizations when I was 16 years old, and have been volunteering to care for wildlife ever since. I applied for the necessary state and federal licenses, so I’m able to rehabilitate small mammals, songbirds and raptors out of my own facility. I specialize in hawks and owls, and I had a private enclosure built to tend to these injured animals. I have had many experiences with fielding phone calls, fostering eastern cottontail rabbits, and caring for injured songbirds, hawks and owls.
How would you describe the value of a biology degree in today’s world?
The truth is that there are many ways that humans have negatively impacted the environment. We have caused habitat loss for wildlife through processes like deforestation, and have contributed to an increased level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have caused a rise in environmental pollution, and a rise to other activities like poaching, over-hunting and the extinction of species. As a result, there is so much work for biologists to do in order to help combat these activities. The value of being a biologist is that you get to be a person on the forefront in the battle against these destructive activities. However, a biology degree is not limited to careers in the environmental field; it can also lead to careers in health-related sciences, research, molecular biology and many fields.
What is your favorite aspect of the biology program at Medaille?
There are many great aspects of Medaille’s biology program, including the small class sizes, community-like atmosphere, and the variety of courses offered. The core courses provide students with a well-rounded introduction to the sciences. Then, they can choose from a large variety of electives based on their primary interests.
In addition, students are able to complete independent studies with an instructor as an elective. The students are usually quite passionate about the topics they choose, and I often learn a lot from my students’ research.
Our vertebrate science labs are unique in that they offer hands-on experiences with animals and also train students in proper field techniques and data collection, preparing them for careers in field biology. Our program is also currently working on developing an internship program for our students, so they can gain experience in the field of their choice. Lastly, we will be offering a course in wildlife rehabilitation in the spring, so students can learn more about that field.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in a career in biology or the life sciences?
My advice would be to get involved on and off campus as much as possible. Volunteer at organizations that have missions that interest you. You will learn a lot about yourself, and you will be glad you took the time to do it.
Take advantage of the accessibility of your professors at Medaille. We are not only here to educate you in science, but we are also here to help guide you in your future career success. You should also be proactive toward your own future. Take the time to research internship opportunities.
Lastly, take advantage of the meetings, talks and field trips coordinated by Medaille’s Life Sciences Club. If you’d like to see more presentations from wildlife experts, health professionals or others, just ask one of the e-board members or one of your professors.
People with injured wildlife questions can contact Dr. Clabeaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Nancy J. Parisi.
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