Words of encouragement for budding scientists from a current undergraduate in Wildlife Biology


Hi friends!

Welcome to my first ever blog post! I wanted to tie my personal journey as an undergraduate wildlife biology student at the University of Montana into this post to share my own experiences and growth as a student and some tips for when you are feeling discouraged about your potential with this profession or just in general!

It all started with me being undecided about my future and what direction to take. I always knew I wanted to work with animals, however school just wasn’t for me at this particular time and I felt that I wasn’t smart enough to tackle the course load that went into being a wildlife biology student. That was my first mistake, the doubt I had about myself.

I took a few years off my undergrad years to find myself and understand the potential I had as an individual. It took me some time but when I realized that I was the one causing a mental block to better my future, I got rid of that block. Once that block was discarded from my mind, I got to work and enrolled as a wildlife biology student at the University of Montana, and what a great decision that was because it brought me to the Mills Lab!

I began volunteering with the Mills lab at the beginning of last summer. Hannah Walker and Lindsey Barnard (two of the Mills lab PhD students) would take me and others up to our field sites in Montana and show us how to safely trap, handle, and collar snowshoe hares.

In the Fall of 2020 I went to Sisters, Oregon to be a field technician for the Mills lab. This was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life because I learned how to collect data and apply that data to valuable research being done within the lab. Another amazing trait I gained with the Mills lab is being team oriented. The PI Scott Mills makes sure that his lab is inclusive and communicates well with one another. It truly does feel like a family.

    …Tips on succeeding as a student and young professional…

  • I realized the key to my progress as a student has been putting myself out there and reaching out to different people while keeping an open mind. I went into wildlife telling myself that I want to work with wolves and other large carnivores. However, you can’t be narrow minded when starting out. Now I can confidently say that I am obsessed with Snowshoe hare’s and all the cuteness they provide!
  • Another important thing to understand when getting into science is that it is for everyone! Science is an amazing field where creativity and knowledge flourish as one. You are on your own journey and you just have to be passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to carve a great path for yourself. Never compare your own journey with anyone else’s.
  • Whenever you feel discouraged about your potential, just keep going! A year ago, I had never worked with any wildlife. Fast forward a year later and I am working with amazing people helping to better the future for wildlife. 

-Lindsay Petrillo, Undergraduate student, Mills Lab   

Feature Image: Me checking a trap to ensure it works correctly and safely. [PC: Lauren Petrillo]

Field Photos


Lindsey Barnard hiking through our field site in Montana. [PC: Lindsay Petrillo]


Me releasing our first GPS collared hare in Oregon. [PC: Amanda Emmel]


Me handling one of our VHF collared winter white hares. [PC: Ben Goodheart]


Snowshoe Hare Tracks [PC: Lindsay Petrillo]


Amanda Emmel using telemetry equipment to track a collared hare. [PC: Lindsay Petrillo]


A disturbing type of fungi called Hydnellum peckii that grows around our field site in OR. [PC: Lindsay Petrillo]