What requirements are needed to make a conservationist? Is it an interest in science, a passion for plants and wildlife, or a connection to the place you’re from? Sometimes it’s a little of both. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of interest, a couple of various jobs, and a little help from an advisor to find your way toward what you love.
Jiny Kim is a biologist with the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. Born and raised in Honolulu, Jiny received her Bachelors of Science degree in marine biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and later her Masters of Science degree in botany from the University of Hawaiʻi Manoa. Since she was young Jiny had a passion for wildlife, though it wasn’t always centered on conservation.
“Since grade school I loved dolphins and wanted to become a dolphin trainer,” said Jiny. “I was not necessarily interested in conservation, but throughout high school I always felt more of an understanding for biology than any other subject. I was still undecided about my major while pursuing my undergraduate degree but again was more interested in biology, and especially in the marine environment. I didn’t really know what I could do as a career at the time or even once I graduated. I didn’t think I had all the tools to apply for any marine biology jobs.”
After completing her undergraduate studies, Jiny returned home to Hawaiʻi and began working at Sea Life Park, a local marine entertainment park along Oʻahu’s northeast side of the island. There she performed in the daily dolphin shows while undertaking other duties around the park, including taking care of seabirds that were unable to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. While Jiny was still unsure of the career path she wanted to take, her experience with seabirds would guide her towards an eventual career in conservation.
“I gave talks to the public about basic bird biology, threats to the marine birds, and some of the conservation activities that were occurring in Papahānaumokuākea (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) for Hawaiian seabirds,” said Jiny. “This is probably the moment that I realized I wanted to live and work in remote locations where the seabirds and marine life were thriving.”
After leaving Sea Life Park, Jiny took on various jobs until deciding to return to school. Wanting to study seabirds, but unsure of the opportunities that awaited her after graduation, Jiny’s advisor recommended a student internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through this internship, Jiny was able to work in the remote locations she had dreamed about.
Today, Jiny works towards protecting native species throughout the Pacific. Taking the lead on the Kauaʻi Seabirds Habitat Conservation Plan, Jiny dove head first into unfamiliar waters. Habitat Conservation Plans are planning documents created to address economic development, while anticipated effects and minimizing harm to surrounding species. These plans usually involve several stakeholders with different interest, and while projects like this can be stressful, it also gave Jiny the opportunity to grow in her mission of protecting seabirds.
But not every project Jiny has tackled has been stressful. Other projects like the Nihoa (Cenchrus echinatus, plant) Control Project were very rewarding. On this project Jiny worked as part of the Inventory and Monitoring Team and Refuges, a group of selected biologist from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services ecological services and refuges department, along with state scientist and a privately contracted botanist. Their job was to complete the biological opinion to assess impacts to endangered plant species that would potentially benefit from the implementation of the project.
“It is the most special to me because it relates to the reason that I wanted to pursue my career as a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Jiny. “It was also awesome to be in the field surrounded by so many native seabirds in a pristine native dominated habitat. It is an experience I will never forget and will always be proud of for the small part I had contributed to the goals of the project.”
Besides her passion for seabirds and conservation, Jiny also participates in the Hui Hōʻai ʻIke, comprised of Department of the Interior employees that share traditional and historic knowledge of the indigenous and local communities. Because conservation in Hawaiʻi involves the natural and cultural resources of the Native Hawaiian community, the Hui helps to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge, values, and practices into work across DOI offices and bureaus.
“Learning about traditional place names, stories, and cultural significance, not only enhances our connections to these lands,” said Jiny. “But perpetuating the language and place names ultimately keeps the stories and history and significance of Hawaiʻi alive.”
Sometimes the journey towards a career in conservation isn’t a straight path. Sometimes it takes many twist and turns to navigate and arrive at your destination. And sometimes you may not know exactly where it is you want to go. Jiny Kim took the path that was not only right for her, but also the path that allowed her to stay true to who she is. And because of her journey, the species of the Pacific Islands, especially the seabirds, have truly benefitted from it.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, connect with us through any of these social media channels at https://www.facebook.com/PacificIslandsFWS, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/, or www.twitter.com/USFWSPacific.