Dr Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer, speaker, presenter and all round science geek. You can currently see her on ‘Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World’ and the Discovery Channel’s ‘Outrageous Acts of Science’. In addition to that, her web series called ‘Wild Sex’ has amassed more than 60 million views and she presented on the same topic at TED Global in 2013. In this interview, we have touched on a wide range of topics from her love of virgin Ceasar cocktails, to her favourite books, spoiler alert – one of them is Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation. It has been a pleasure to chat with Carin and we hope you enjoy reading about her adventures.
Q: What is your dinner party monologue for when someone says “and what do you do?”
A: I’m a sex biologist (I’m very fun at parties).
Q: Could you tell us about where you grew up; were you a rural or city dweller?
A: Small town, somewhere between rural farm and small city. 1.5 hours away from Vancouver.
Q: What subject(s) did you excel at in school, and which did you find most challenging?
A: I was a pretty good student overall, although math and physics were not particularly great for me.
Q: Can you recall any reoccurring comments from your school reports?
A: No, nothing comes to mind.
Regarding your undergraduate studies:
Q: Which University did you study at, and was it your first choice?
A: Simon Fraser University. Yes, it was my first choice. I hadn’t actually planned on going to university, but they offered me a good scholarship and so I went!
Q: What undergraduate degree did you study for at University, and in hindsight would you select the same subject again?
A: I spend my first few years in various subjects like dance, acting, French and archaeology. Then somewhere along the way, I decided that I really wanted to try science, and specifically biology.
Q: Can you remember a University lecturer who really inspired you?
A: Yes, Dr Bernard Crespi – an evolutionary biologist at SFU. He taught a social behaviour class which was one of the last courses I took as an undergrad. He really inspired me to think, become more philosophical about the way I approached animal behaviour.
Regarding your postgraduate studies:
Q: What motivated you to further pursue academia?
A: A pure love of biology.
Q: What institution(s) did you study at in your pursuit of postgraduate education?
A: The University of Victoria (MSc) and The University of British Columbia (PhD)
Q: What was the title of your PhD thesis, and how would you explain your findings to a novice?
A: The Ontogenetic Ecology of the signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus. My thesis was about incorporating all developmental stages of an organism into food web and ecological work. It’s important to consider that animals don’t act the same way through their lives. In some cases, animals have completely different ecologies as juveniles than they do as adults.
Q: If you had your time as a student again, what would you do, if anything, differently?
A: I would take science in high school. I spent my second year of university catching up and doing high school science at night.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your professional journey to date?
A: It’s been a diverse mix of science media projects. Online video, blogging, book writing and television.
Q: What do you think is your biggest achievement?
A: My TED talk, which led to a book deal, which led to another book deal.
Q: Can you tell us about your current professional focus?
A: I’m writing the second book of the ‘Wild’ series, it’s called Wild Moms. I’m also doing lectures and talks at various conferences and I’ve recently signed on to lead a tour group to the rainforests of New Guinea to discover new species.
Q: Let your imagination take over for a minute and tell us what you hope your successors will be working on in 2116?
A: I hope that we have developed a greater understanding of the emotional and personal capacities of animals.
Q: What do you feel your professional legacy will be?
A: I hope that it will be something like following your dreams, not giving up, empowering young women, and telling cool science stories.
Q: Are you working on any extra-curricular projects at the moment, such as: books, podcasts, websites, or speaking?
A: All of the above.
Advice and Tips
Q: If you could give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
Q: What advice would you give someone looking to start, or progress his or her career in your field?
A: Work hard, be awesome and don’t expect a handout. This field is one where you are constantly needing to reinvent yourself and be both teachable and flexible.
Q: Which book would you say has had the biggest impact on your life?
A: Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation. I wanted to be Olivia Judson.
Once you have a grasp on the world it’s time to make your own rules and get creative.
Q: Why do you think being a freethinker is important?
A: I think it’s important to ‘play by the rules’ until you know whom you are and what you are doing. Once you have a grasp on the world it’s time to make your own rules and get creative. Overconfidence is a huge problem. It’s important to remain humble and teachable.
Q: And finally, we are back at the dinner party. Someone offers you a drink, what do you ask for?
A: I’m super boring because I don’t drink. Generally, it’s a club soda with lime, or if I’m in Canada I’ll ask for a virgin Ceasar. In the USA you don’t know what I’m talking about when I order that so I just usually stick with club soda :D.
If you’d like to find out more about Dr Carin Bondar you can check out her Twitter page, Facebook page, TED talk and personal website