Navigating the Maize

Maizy Kesterson | Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences | Medford, OR | Junior

College of Agriculture Sciences Ambassador

I am the first person in my family to attend a large university and pursue a bachelors degree. My mom previously received her associates degree from community college in order to work as a medical assistant in a pediatric clinic.

Exploring the World

I love to be outside exploring, seeing new animals and places with friends, family, and my golden retriever Kenai. Other than school and learning about the wildlife that I hope to help one day I love to create art and journal. I make my own planner each month to help me stay organized and on track. I also really enjoy running and exercising, this last year I completed my first half marathon on trails in bend and earned 11th place overall and 1st in my age group. Hiking and playing fetch with my dog are activities that I wouldn't trade for the world! I also really enjoy traveling and have been to South Africa and Mexico to build for those in need. Helping people and animals are some of my biggest passions.

Finding My Passion

Throughout my childhood, I knew that I was passionate about animals. This led me to have a goal of being a veterinarian one day. As time went on my goals changed but I knew that I still wanted to impact my environment and the animals within it. I am a transfer student so my college career actually started at Montana State University, a school only a short drive away from Yellowstone National park. Once I arrived in Bozeman and saw all of the wonderful wildlife and scenery around me I knew that my education goals were on the right track. Taking ecology and biology classes and learning facts about the animals around me is one of my favorite things. I think that my studies are so important to the future of our world. With growing climate concerns and habitat destruction only increasing, I think that fish and wildlife professionals will be vital in order to keep animals and humans living together in our world.

Stepping Out

A defining moment in my life has to be when I drove 13 hours away to a place I had never been before to start my freshman year of college. I attended Montana State University for my first year of college away from all of my friends, family, and everyone I had ever known. It was very hard to be alone and find my own way. I had always had such a large support system around me so it was definitely a very big change. But, I learned how to take care of myself, form my own routines, and make new friends. It was very scary and intimidating in the beginning but I made myself very proud of being so far away and succeeding in my education. It also was SUPER cold, adding another layer of intensity that brought even more fun!

Gaining Experience

Although I haven't studied abroad (I plan on doing this soon), I have had an internship at OSU that was very valuable to me. I was mentored by a graduate student in the fisheries and wildlife program early last year and got the opportunity to study trail camera footage of ocelots from brazil! I spent about 6 months going through videos and images identifying ocelots by their spot patterns. I got to learn how to use multiple programs during this experience such as Adobe and Rstudio, both of which will be very useful for my future profession. In the end, after months of analysis and LOTS of help from my mentor I got to estimate the population density for the ocelots in a place where they had never been studied before! I even got to make a poster and present it in front of the community.

Other than the amazing internship that I was a part of I also have gained hands-on experience by working in a microbiology lab at OSU. My advisor, Levi Taal suggested the position to me after hearing I was looking for more experience. His lab is called the F.E.C.E.S. lab and is a molecular predator ecology lab. My daily tasks include sorting through scat samples to extract the DNA within them. We then can run tests to find what prey the predators have eaten! This lab experience is so beneficial to my education. It allows me to apply things that I've learned in the classroom to real-life situations. It also has cemented my passion for this area of work. The hands-on experience is a really great thing to tell future employers as well!

Positive Approach

I have faced a few challenges in my education. The first challenge that comes to mind is my transfer from universities. Coming from an out of state college a lot of my credits didn't fully transfer so I had take chemistry...twice! But my transfer to OSU was a great decision, even after having to retake some classes, the opportunities that I have received and the friends that I have made are things that I would never give up! Another struggle that I have had to overcome, along with everyone else, is the COVID-19 pandemic. I have two autoimmune diseases so the fear that has come with the COVID crisis has definitely made me be very precautious. Although online classes have been different and come with their own challenges, keeping myself organized and taking the necessary precautions to stay safe has allowed me to succeed, even in a global pandemic. Looking at things with a positive attitude is sometimes the only way to prevail. I just try to look ahead instead of behind.

Looking to the Future

In five years I hope to have a master's degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences and be working for a non-profit or a government organization like USFWS. I want to focus on large carnivore conservation and ecology to help the people around me better understand their role in the ecosystem. I Would eventually love to work with wolves or large cats around the world and locally. In a perfect world, I could even end up back in Montana around Yellowstone where the predators are everywhere! AgSci is helping me achieve these goals by giving me the skills that employers are searching for. The information I am learning in my classes and in my hands-on activities are invaluable to my future. The department of fisheries and wildlife is also amazing at letting me know about opportunities around the country like internships and full-time positions.

Get Out There

My biggest advice to incoming college students is to get INVOLVED! Try the clubs you are afraid to join, the events that you may attend solo, and the extra credit class opportunities that lead to more learning. In all aspects of OSU and college in general there are so many things to take advantage of before it's over. The friends and connections that you can make by taking chances and putting yourself out there are priceless. Other advice that I find so important is to get involved with research and leadership early. In the college of Ag there are so many undergraduate opportunities that make you desirable for future employers. Not only that but research can be such fun when you are passionate!

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

-George Bernard Shaw