9

I'm a fresh graduate with a BS Biology degree and so I'm more familiar with the academia side (i.e. how to do research, collect data, write papers, and present them). I keep hearing discussions on whether or not researchers want to stay in academia or go into industry, but I don't really know what "industry" means for the ecology and bioacoustics field.

I have read the previous post regarding bioacoustics jobs and opportunities here in BSE (see this post) but the academia and industry careers are not differentiated from one another.

So my question is: How does the industry side of bioacoustics differ from its academia counterpart?

Thank you!

1
  • Hi - I think the relevance of any answer to this will depend on whereabouts in the world you are based (e.g. USA vs Europe?), and whether you are looking at the marine or terrestrial sectors. I think all these will be very different. (I work both as a University lecturer and Director of Bioacoustics in an ecological consultancy). Aug 8 at 18:19

3 Answers 3

7

As someone in the industry side, I don't see much difference from a professor who doesn't have to teach classes. I work for a small (19 people) start-up (not a large company) so that might give the freedom to have the variety of roles that I do. As a "Senior Scientist", roles that I have in industry include:

  1. Write grants to cover 100% of my salary. (Though the company does have a clause in the hiring agreement where if there aren't enough grants for a person to cover their salary they can take a "sabbatical" for up to three months at a rate of 75% of their pay and do just grant writing to apply for more grants. Not every company has this clause.)
  2. Project Manage (be PI on) the grants that I have won. This includes (a) carrying out the tasks and deliverables I assign to myself which is the nuts and bolts of the research and the fieldwork and (b) making sure everyone else is tasked to a reasonable level and completing their deliverables. (We have a main project manager in the company who helps keep track of the budget.)
  3. Mentor younger "Junior Scientists" in the company.
  4. Publish papers.
  5. Present at conferences.
  6. Attend review meetings organized by funding agencies.
  7. Write quarterly and annual reports for the funding agencies.
  8. Be reviewer and editor in various journals / serve on panels that benefit the field or the cause of my research.
  9. Serve on graduate student committees. (This I can only do because I have an "affiliate research professor" designation with the university where I did my post-doc. Universities vary in who is allowed to be on student committees or not.)
  10. Present at any seminars I might be invited to.
  11. Serve on a society committee.
  12. Develop and lead internal committees within the company - for example, committees that aim to reduce bias and/or support diversity in the company's hiring procedures.
  13. Run the social media pages for the company.
  14. Hire and mentor interns.

On the side I'm allowed to:

  1. Develop my own field sites or continue working at field sites from earlier degrees until I can find funding to pay for my time to go into the field for those projects.
  2. Serve as affiliate research faculty for an international university where I advise undergrad and masters students as their "subject expert advisor" for their theses. This is a thing in Colombian universities - I'm not sure how many other institutions have this infrastructure.
  3. Accept requests for interviews, documentaries, and other social media / science communication opportunities.

This will all vary by the industry company itself. The notable part is that the grants I apply to are largely the same grants I would be applying to if I had a full-time professor position or was at NOAA. The big difference is industry has no requirement of attaining tenure, nor are there any teaching requirements unless your company wants someone to do internal workshops or classes.

7

To build off of what @Kerri said, I think in general there are two types of industry jobs. The first kind is the one that Kerri holds, which mimics a lot of the positives of being in academia without the negatives. However, I would argue that these jobs are rare, or, are often based on contracts. I've worked multiple contract industry jobs; where I am brought on as the bioacoustic or field work specialist. I am contracted for a few weeks or a few months to complete the contract, and then I have no commitment to the company afterwards, nor do they have any commitment to me. Often companies would re-hire me for similar work as it came up, but nothing consistent.

These types of jobs can be very lucrative. Your hourly charge is well above anything you would get in a stable position as you are typically responsible for all of your own benefits (health care, IRA, etc.). However, it can also be stressful as you are always on the hunt for your next gig. I recently made the move back into academia after a few years juggling being a government contractor (@ NOAA) and an independent consultant.

Most of the gigs I got were by word of month, though for some I applied and some businesses found me through my LinkedIn and website. I found myself doing things that weren't really science (e.g. Data Cleaning for a medical company) to bridge the gaps.

A lot of folks that 'work for industry' also are adjacent to the energy industry: working as Protected Species Observers (PSO) and Passive Acoustic Monitors (PAM) on vessels and oil platforms. This career path that has the most jobs on the market, but it is absolutely a hustle with low wages and frequently unsafe working conditions. We NEED PSO and PAM folks, and honestly, it is a good place to get your feet wet with field work. But it is also a profession that chargers you to start (you have to pay for a certification out of your own pocket) and that is not taken as seriously as it should be.

I think if you can find a good, stable job in industry, it can be a great position. However, as Kerri mentions, company policies vary, so it is important to know what you are getting into. In a lot of ways I liked managing my own time as a consultant. It allowed me to do out-of-the-box things, like working on a podcast with my local NPR station. But now that I'm back in academia, and I know what's coming months out, there's a level of stress that I just don't deal with anymore that I'm thankful for.

Final note is that a lot of university departments are starting to run more like businesses anyway. Where researchers are responsible for their own salary, but the university takes a ridiculous overhead. Where higher-ups are concerned about how much money a department makes for the university over a fiscal year. Major institutions are making this change, and it isn't friendly towards researchers. So whether you enter industry or academia, it is important to read the fine print.

5

I can add to the above answers: I work with a small consultancy company (9 people), I develop and sell underwater noise modelling software as well as carry out underwater noise modelling and marine acoustic impact assessments (the "bread and butter" part of the job). Additionally, I do some occasional reviews of regulator guidelines, work with the regulator to review other's work, teach underwater noise courses or make bespoke modelling tools (software). Most of the work is part of the environmental impact assessment process of marine construction and mineral exploration.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.