Careers 2 Communities

Career Spotlight: Wildlife Biologist, Nicole Tatman

Interested in biology? Do you love animals? Learn more about how to become a wildlife biologist and studying big game population.

Nicole Tatman is a big game program manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She originally grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and spent a lot of her time outdoors. She would catch lizards and observe them in a little terrarium.

Her father would often take her and her siblings camping in the Jemez Mountains creating “an appreciation for the outdoors and the wildlife that lives in them” (Tatman, 00:00:49). In high school she was fascinated with biology; and while she was nervous about math and didn’t believe that she was very good at it, it shows on a daily basis how important it is in her line of work.

Tatman went to college at New Mexico State University. At first, she didn’t know what she wanted to do as a career. She originally wanted to become a zookeeper, but talking to her professors, she figured out that she wanted to become a wildlife biologist. She worked with her professors on their projects and learned more about the career. After finishing her undergraduate, she went on to graduate school where she was tasked on a project by herself. In that project, she was studying a deer population in Arizona as well as an elk population in New Mexico.

Her job with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is to be wildlife biologist for the big game. She measures the wildlife populations and helps create recommendations on how to manage them. She works in an office and in the field collecting data from the populations. An example of what she does is that she helps “plan a project to identify migration routes for deer and elk species in Northern New Mexico’ (Tatman, 00:4:17). This for her includes organizing a capture where they can put a collar on the deer or elk so they can observe where they’re moving.

In her line of work, Tatman talks about how there is a lot of logistics required to make sure everything goes smoothly for their projects. In the field, she often gets on a helicopter with a group of people and observe wildlife and elk populations. They count how many females, males, and juveniles are in the groups. With this information, Tatman and her group can work one estimating the entire population.

Her and her team look at the patterns that they’re seeing in the wildlife population. They look to see if what their patterns are is meaningful or if it’s just one animal that is doing something that they consider weird.

Watch the video to learn more about Nicole Tatman and how to become a wildlife biologist here.

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