On Her Journey to Becoming a Conservation Vet, Emily Jones ’24 is Taking the Next Step at Tufts University

On Her Journey to Becoming a Conservation Vet, Emily Jones ’24 is Taking the Next Step at Tufts University

Academics, Internships, Research, Sciences, Study Abroad, Testimonials

May 9, 2024

On Her Journey to Becoming a Conservation Vet, Emily Jones ’24 is Taking the Next Step at Tufts University Emily Jones '24

Emily Jones ’24 says she found her life’s calling in high school, a discovery she credits in large part to her AP Biology teacher.

“He was so passionate about the subject, and it was fascinating to learn how the systems of the body integrate and how everything works,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences, but that really got me leaning toward biology. I began researching what I could do career-wise, and it came down to human medicine or animal medicine. I thought animal medicine was much more for me.”

Jones’ interest subsequently brought her to Hollins and the university’s biology department, and over the past four years her aspirations have taken her as far away as East Africa, a journey of exploration that has culminated in her decision to work in the field of wildlife management and conservation.

When she started at Hollins, Jones says she realized that pursuing a career in veterinary medicine should be based on more than just pure desire. “There’s a difference between thinking you want to do it and knowing you can handle it. It can be very stressful and it’s not for everybody.” Jones admits she was nervous at first, so she says she was encouraged to get some real-world experience in veterinary medicine. “One of the things I love about Hollins is that they have the January Short Term program where you can go and do internships. I interned with an equine veterinary practice and with a small animal clinic, which are both located close to my home in Ohio.”

Jones found both internships to be invaluable. “The unique thing about equine vets and other similar practices is that they mostly do farm calls. They have a list of appointments and so you just get in the truck and drive. It’s interesting work.” Equine vets typically don’t deliver medical care in a climate-controlled facility and don’t work 9-to-5 hours, she says. “You’re working in a barn, and you might be going out to stitch up a horse’s face in the middle of the night, in January, and in the snow. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Her work at the small animal clinic, she adds, “was also engaging. The vets were so nice, and they all just wanted to pass on their knowledge.”

Those internships served as a major step in helping Jones confirm that veterinary medicine was what she wanted to do. They also helped pave the way for her to take on a veterinary assistant role at an emergency vet clinic near her home. It’s a position she has held each summer since coming to Hollins.

“It’s taught me a lot about the importance of building endurance and how to handle difficult situations such as when an animal must be euthanized and the owner is understandably upset,” she explains. “I’m on the third shift, which is definitely an interesting time, and I work 40-50 hours a week.”

But perhaps the most impactful opportunity for Jones during her undergraduate career occurred during the spring of her junior year when she spent the entire semester studying abroad in Tanzania and Kenya with the School for Field Studies. The experience, she says, opened her eyes to a new and growing facet of veterinary medicine.

“I did a lot of work in the field and surveyed everything from plants to animals and large mammals. I learned a lot about wildlife management and the fact that it’s a really big part of wildlife conservation. We spent time with a few vets in addition to other conservationists and wildlife managers who are addressing disease epidemics in national parks located in those two countries.”

Jones describes wildlife and conservation veterinary medicine as “conservation from a different side. It’s not necessarily about wildlife conservation as it relates to land management. It focuses on working with diseases that are wiping out populations as well as the genetic diversity of endangered species, issues that I think are super important and super interesting.”

Recently, veterinarians have begun specializing in, and earning board certification for, zoological and conservation medicine. “It allows you to work more in-depth with wildlife and with zoos and rehabilitation programs,” Jones says. “Zoological veterinary is a very small field right now. There are only a certain number of zoos that are accredited. But conservation veterinary is growing, and there’s a lot of exciting work going on to figure out the best ways to weave wildlife management, wildlife conservation, and veterinary medicine together to create a more holistic approach.”

Conservation vets can work anywhere in the world, including the United States (“There is plenty of wildlife and plenty of endangered species here,” Jones notes), but the biology major is particularly interested in international veterinary medicine.

“There are a lot of intercountry species migrations,” she says. “For example, Tanzania and Kenya share a border and they also share the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Serengeti National Park. They’re two separate countries, but they are connected. That’s a really important thing to take into account for conservation and it’s a really interesting direction for veterinary medicine as well.”

This fall, Jones will enter the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where she will complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Cummings features a wildlife conservation program and focuses on international veterinary medicine. “You can actually design your own program and do an externship where you can go to other countries and work there,” Jones says. “I would love to go back to Tanzania.”

Jones is grateful to the biology department faculty at Hollins for their part in preparing her for the next steps in her career. “The professors are amazing. They’re incredibly knowledgeable, and they’re so willing to talk with you about your research and interests, their research, and the opportunities that are available. I get tons of email from them – ‘We saw this, and we thought of you!’ That’s something you don’t get in a larger school, that personal connection with your professors. My experience across the board with the biology department has just been great.”

A love of science has inspired Jones to serve fellow students and friends both officially and unofficially as a biology tutor. She also works in the lab where Professor of Psychology Bonnie Bowers leads research into snake behavior and learning, which has given Jones useful training in dealing with reptiles. “It’s helped me learn their care requirements and how to handle them properly. We have ten snakes in the lab, so it’s also been a great experience managing a lot of animals at once.”

Jones says she has enjoyed “the diversity of extracurriculars” she’s been able to do at Hollins, including a club for pre-vet and pre-med students where participants can learn about basic medical techniques and hear talks from human and animal medical personnel. She’s also a member of the Hollins tennis team.

“Doing something in athletics is beneficial to your academics because it keeps you active, which helps your brain,” she says. “You can become so busy studying and focusing on school that you can forget to take care of your mental health and wellbeing. Athletics has helped me to achieve that balance.”