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Dr. Pauline Delnatte

Veterinarian, Toronto Zoo

When exploring careers in STEM, Dr. Pauline Delnatte chose to purse a niche and unique field — conservation science and veterinary medicine.

Now, as a Zoo Veterinarian at the Toronto Zoo, Dr. Delnatte’s day-to-day can cover anything from treating a sick Eastern loggerhead shrike to monitoring the quality of life of a geriatric gorilla or orangutan to assisting in the design of a research project to learn more about Vancouver Island marmot diet and conservation. She shares her education journey and passion, encouraging more women to join this fulfilling field.

Dear young scientists,

Why do you think Science and Biology are primordial in our societies? Because without understanding the natural world that surrounds us, we won’t be able to protect it.

Whether it is a breath-taking landscape, a stunning tree, or any animal behaviour, for me, nature is pure, simple, instinctive, and beautiful. With time, I came to realize that the world is changing and nature needs to be cherished and preserved.

Conservation biology is a complex interdisciplinary science, whose ultimate aim is the protection of species, their habitats and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction. It is a fascinating field where you learn constantly, you are amazed every single day, and you work with incredible people.

I feel extremely lucky that I ended up combining a fulfilling career with a deep-seated passion for wildlife by becoming a veterinarian for a world-class zoological institution that fights every day against species extinction.

Conservation science and veterinary medicine are two captivating disciplines where women have and continue to thrive and can be empowered. Examples abound and they not only include veterinary schools, or zoos like ours, where female students and staff are now the norm, rather than the exception; they also include high risk positions, such as all-women armed anti-poaching units in Africa, even in countries where cultures tended to assign the role of “protector” exclusively to men.

When I was dreaming of becoming a zoo veterinarian, I was told many times “it is a man’s job,” even by beloved and supportive members of my family. I believe that was their way to protect me rather than to discourage me in reaching my dreams. There have been a few challenges being a woman in this field, but none that could not be overcome by perseverance, patience and a passion for science. It has been amazing to see how veterinary medicine is no longer viewed exclusively as a male-dominated field!

Dr. Pauline Delnatte

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