Thursday, September 22, 2016

How did you get into bugs?

"How did you get into bugs?" I've been asked this question more time than I can count. For some people, they just don't get how insects could be interesting. They most certainly don't understand why I would choose to go to places where there are lots and lots of them. Typically, I will tell people that I just "grew interested." However, it's much more complicated than that. It all began while I was going to school and trying to build my resume. The local health department had an opening for a West Nile Virus Surveillance intern and I figured the health department would look really good on an Environmental Health resume. Little did I know, this would peak my insect interest and pave the way for my future. I spent the next 3 months catching, identifying, freezing and testing mosquitos. All summer I drove to the same remote locations to collect my week's harvest. In the rain, sun or tornados, I battled raccoons, deer and rabbits to gather my samples. Needless to say, after graduation I became a health inspector. My west nile virus surveillance came in handy, I would still get to dabble in it by collecting dead crows or sparrows from throughout the county I covered. But then I got into the real fun-- cockroaches. I loved hunting down roaches in a restaurant. I knew the diseases they could carry and the ramifications this could have for an unsuspecting consumer and ultimately, I wanted to protect people's health. I got so good at finding roaches, I could walk into a place and smell them. It was fun, it was interesting. I then met the love of my life, my husband. He lived near St. Louis and as our relationship progressed, I knew I needed to make a change. I was moving to St. Louis. If you know me personally, you know not only am I fascinated with insects but I LOVE DOGS! Dogs are the best!! And what's better in St. Louis for a dog lover than the largest manufacturer of pet food in the US...nothing. So I meticulously combed the Purina website for months looking for any and everything I could possibly be qualified for and applied immediately. Rejection after rejection was heartbreaking but then I got it. I got a call from their HR department. They wanted to interview me on a job that wasn't posted but they had seen my resume and thought I might be a good fit. I was ecstatic! I didn't even care what the job was, I wanted it. Come to find out, the job was in Food Safety!! I was over the moon excited. I nailed the phone interview and they set me up for an in person interview the following week. When I got there, I discussed in detail my likes, my dislikes, my previous work, who I was and where I wanted to go. At the end of my interview, my now boss said to me, "Well, we'd really like it if you'd become a Board Certified Entomologist too." And I've been in the Retail Food Safety department with Purina for the last 3 years with all the resources I could ever want to expand my insect knowledge. I love learning and I never want to stop, especially about insects.

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