CAREER

Personal Story: They Said My Profession Was Worthless 

About a decade ago, those who chose the profession of an ecologist were considered odd. The job was said to be unpopular, low-paying and useless. However, this proves to be wrong nowadays: ecologists are a high demand career and the popularity of the profession is still rising. Veronika Dashkova told us about this and many other things in her story.
By Natalya Zainullina

Decemeber 8th, 2021

Veronika Dashkova

Veronika Dashkova

Ecologist
When I was going to enter a university, few people heard of or came across ecologists. Life has amazingly changed over these years: eco lifestyle has become a trend, fashion stores are filled with eco style clothes, and plastic bags are replaced with shopper bags. Today, a girl with a net shopping bag in the street is not considered old fashioned or unsophisticated. On the contrary, her choice is widely approved. More people start to realise the scarcity of the planet’s resources and the need for taking care of the Earth. I also wanted to contribute my efforts to the future of our planet.


I have two degrees. I graduated from the University of York (UK) with an major in ecology and earned a master’s degree in biology at the Nazarbayev University. Currently I work at the Nazarbayev University and I am preparing to defend a Phd thesis on phytoplankton in lakes of Kazakhstan. I often take part in expeditions to Lake Balkhash, the Aral Sea, Lake Borovoye and other places. Annually our team takes water samples in the lakes, brings them to the laboratory and analyses them using special equipment. Based on the results, we publish international academic papers.


I have been engaged in ecology for ten years now. In addition to my work, I do my best to increase environmental awareness. I have learned another profession – environmental coaching –recently. An environmental coach is a person who talks about and teaches how to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

I did not dream of being an ecologist
When I was in my teens, nobody knew about this profession. I fancied being a dancer or actress. However, I have always been fond of nature, especially water, for which I still have a deep affection. I found out about ecologists shortly before choosing a university. I decided that I wanted to make my contribution, a good deed for the planet. My parents were shocked by my choice. Nobody understood why I decided to learn this job. Professions of an economist or a lawyer which would bring more money would be a better choice in their opinion. I had another vision: having an interesting job was my priority. I have never regretted my decision.

I believe that the profession of an ecologist is very important these days. Unfortunately, I see that there are still not enough qualified specialists in this field. Most of my colleagues work at production facilities, i.e., specialise in industrial ecology and measure air emissions. Now that environmental problems have become more tangible, we need professionals who will deal with these challenges directly and co-ordinate the efforts of the society and government.

Even now we see that environmental issues will become more urgent in the future
All nations will pay greater attention to these challenges. Every company will have to follow certain environmental rules and standards. Today companies working in various spheres hire ecologists, environmental engineers, environmental coaches, preachers and consultants. Sustainability is becoming a trend now and many companies want to keep up. This is why they engage necessary specialists. And the demand for these professionals will grow. The profession will therefore be more relevant than ever in the next decades.


“Ecology” originates from a Greek word for “home”, the place we live in. This means that ecology is about protecting our home. We need to understand that nature is not separate from humans, it is a part of us. By damaging the planet we cause harm to ourselves. The planet adapts to any conditions and will survive, while it is questionable if the humankind will.


I always try to explain to others the relationship between people and nature. To feel it, we need to spend more time outdoors, look around and notice what is happening near us. This will help you see environmental problems. If you wish to make the world a better place, you can start small: sort your waste and use less disposable products (plastic bottles and cups). It is crucial, for example, to stop using toxic chemical products and cosmetics. This includes not only products we use for ourselves, but also products we dispose as sewage. These wastes go to the drainage system and further to water bodies from which we take fresh water.

Personal Story: They Said My Profession Was Worthless
Personal Story: They Said My Profession Was Worthless
In fact, you do not need to make global efforts or take part in protests
Just start with yourself. Some people believe that climate change is a fiction. Others say that any efforts would be in vain in Kazakhstan, because sorted waste is not processed. This is not true. There are over fifty waste processing plants in Kazakhstan, more people live a conscious lifestyle and more young people choose the profession of an ecologist. I believe that it is our actions that define how we will live in the future.

Illustrations: Aziza Kireyeva

Photographs were provided by Veronika Dashkova 

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This project is supported by a grant provided by the U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Mission to Kazakhstan.


Данный проект реализуется с помощью гранта от Посольства США в Нур-Султане, Казахстан. Мнения, выраженные в материалах, принадлежат их авторам и не обязательно отражают точку зрения Правительства США или Дипломатической Миссии США в Казахстане.

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