Alumni Spotlight

David O’Connor - Conservation Ecologist at San Diego Zoo

8 May
David O’Connor

David O’Connor is a community-based conservation ecologist based at San Diego Zoo. He travels the globe working on projects such as giraffe conservation and combating the illegal trade in animal parts. David talks to us about his time at UCC and how finding a book in the Boole library led him to a career in wildlife conservation.

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork

Zoology and Earth Science (Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, UCC)

Best memory of UCC

I have lots of fond memories of UCC and the people I met there, it’s too hard to pick a favourite, as they’ve all combined over the years into really happy recollections. Highlights include getting accepted in the first place, field trips throughout Ireland and Europe, post-Exam hi-jinx at the Western Star on those long summer evenings, and even if it’s not too nerdy to say, some of the insights and knowledge I learned during lectures and research.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

Essential I’d say. I always know I wanted to work with wildlife and in conservation, and I remember distinctly as a first year finding a book in the Boole library on rainy afternoon, and for the first time reading wildlife research papers, it was fascinating, and I was hooked. The knowledge, skills, approaches I learned as well as the fieldwork opportunities we had, were vital foundation for entry into conservation work.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

Enjoy it and maximize every opportunity. Say Yes. This time at UCC, you will never again have some many diverse opportunities to try new things and activities and meet new people so definitely avail of it. Also make time to dive into subjects that interest you, likewise you’re unlikely to have time to really delve deep into areas of interest to you. Regarding the conservation field, in addition to coursework, try to get as much fieldwork and analysis experience as you can. Volunteer if needs be. It really helps for your future.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

I think I was very lucky, so many people positively influenced me during my time, too many to mention. Friends, lecturers, researchers, coaches…there were lots of people I admired and feel grateful to have known them.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

UCC Photography Society, Sub Aqua Club, and I think I even did a bit of fencing for a while, sure why not?

Favourite UCC legend or superstition

Not walking on the crest in the Quad arch. I lived down that way, and avoided it everyday. Needed all the luck I could get for exams.

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