Amanda Hyman earned her master’s in fish and wildlife conservation last December and within a month was on her way to Tanzania. Awaiting her was a position with Korongo People’s Lion Initiative, or Kope Lion, a nongovernment organization dedicated to inspiring local action to promote sustainable human-lion coexistence in multi-use landscapes.

Within the first 12 hours of her arrival, she was out in the field with two local Maasai, unfamiliar with the language and disoriented. Hyman recalls her first days in Africa as some of the greatest yet most demanding moments of her life but credits her education and experience with preparing her for the challenge. “My studies helped me learn the hard skills: the stats, the coding, the analyzing of techniques,” she said. “Many classes taught me to think critically, to remain skeptical, and to question how or why. Those on-the-fly problem-solving skills really come in handy.”

“In the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, I also created a really great network of peers and mentors,” reported Hyman, who served as president of the Fish and Wildlife Graduate Student Association and initiated the group’s calendar fundraiser, featuring photos taken by students during their research. “Learning how to utilize others’ skills and knowledge bases — and accepting it is okay to do so — is incredibly helpful here.”

Hyman’s work with Kope Lion varies from day to day. “One day I could be sitting at a computer entering data or coding, while the next I am out tracking lions sleeping next to zebras, and the next I could be hosting a community meeting with local warriors.” All in a day’s work to create harmony between lions and locals.