Alumnus Erik Houtepen was interviewed about his time as student at Wageningen University. Below you can find the whole interview.
Who are you and what did you study?
I am Erik Houtepen, a 31-year-old Wageningen alumnus. I studied a self-made (‘free’) bachelor and master Biology at Wageningen University and specialized in Marine Biology during both. My MSc internship and thesis were conducted on Dutch Caribbean coral reef ecology.
Since you graduated, what kind of jobs did you have?
I started my professional career as a Marine Park ranger at the St. Eustatius National Parks foundation directly after I graduated the MSc Biology. During my internship, I lived on St. Eustatius(Dutch Caribbean) and was eager to go back and start the job. Having the network, made possible by WUR, helped me get informed on the job and then get the job. Although this job didn’t require MSc level, the experience of two years captaining a boat and leading over a 1000 dives really boosted my experience and further introduced me to the Dutch Caribbean nature conservation cause. I was later offered a job as researcher and consultant at sister organisation Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (Carmabi) on Curaçao, where I currently live. An important part of being a researcher and consultant at Carmabi is monitoring nature in the Curaçaoan National Parks managed by Carmabi, complemented by external environmental consultancies.
And what is your current job?
Currently I am head of the consultancy department at Carmabi. Working on research and environmental consultancies on Curaçao and the wider Caribbean.
Is this what you always wanted to be?
Yes! With this job, I have the chance to further study Caribbean nature and provide advice on a range of topics relating to the environment, for example nature evaluations reports.
What are your future goals?
To continue having an increasing impact on the Dutch Caribbean nature conservation cause.
How do you contribute to a better world?
Carmabi is a key player in Dutch Caribbean nature conservation, focusing on research, management and education. The foundation therefore includes four departments; research, park management, environmental education and consultancy. Each department focusses on the natural world and provides the scientific information to inform and teach the next generations. Studying in Wageningen provided me with a proper scientific background, opened doors and helped me building a network through the internship and thesis opportunities as well as through the international character of the city and university.
What choices have you made that have helped you to get where you are now?
The internship and thesis prepared me well for the professional world and provided the opportunity to build my network. Working abroad is not something learned in a classroom and can come only with experience and mistakes.