CONTEST: Alicia Lamb: To Africa and back

Alicia Lamb (Provided photo)

(Editor’s note: Winners of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News Biography Writing Contest were recently chosen. Here is the second-place entry for high school. The contest was open to students in the Olympic Region.)

LAKE PLACID — Alicia Lamb, from Binghamton, NY to Africa to the Adirondacks, this animal loving traveler is truly a jack of all trades in wildlife research. Lamb, 32, lives in Paul Smiths with many animals. She currently works at The Wild Center as a Climate Program Manager, but has only been there for less than a year. It wasn’t until after a lot of traveling, wildlife research, and education jobs that she was ready to settle into a long-term career.

From her high school, Chenango Valley, to her current job at The Wild Center, she’s had many adventures on her wildlife journey. After high school she had her first real teaching experience at Camp Treetops in Lake Placid, that’s where she realized how much she loved teaching and the Adirondacks. Then, in college, Alicia wasn’t an education major, but she taught informally whenever possible. Her major was biology so she got to pursue science. When she graduated with her bachelors degree she took a gap year. In that gap year she worked for the DEC in the Wildlife Department.

Alicia wanted to continue her education though, and wanted to do it with something she was passionate about. She had always loved lemurs and Madagascar. She really wanted to work with Dr. Patricia Wright, who she called “the Jane Goodall of lemurs”. Alicia applied to work with her at Stony Brook University for her master’s degree, and she got in. With Patricia, she did research, environmental education, and conservation work in Madagascar. After graduating from Stony Brook, she was offered to teach an undergrad course to students there.

When Alicia was teaching abroad, National Geographic Student Expeditions was starting their first year of high school expeditions in Madagascar. They heard about Alicia and her experience, and knew they wanted her to help them with the program. They reached out to her, and of course she said yes.

“That’s how I got my foot in the door of high school programs abroad,” Alicia said.

After that she started working on her Ph.D at Clarkson University. She went abroad to the Democratic Republic of Congo to study wild bonobos. She was supposed to be there for a year collecting data for her dissertation and a Harvard professor, but on her 28th birthday she was evacuated due to political instability in the area. A month later Alicia was fully evacuated because of Covid. However, in 2021, Putnam Student Travel started up a few of their most successful expeditions, and wanted Alicia to help out in Namibia. They knew about her from her work with National Geographic, and again she said yes. Alicia’s happy she had her summers available while getting her Ph.D so she could do this.

On her travels the living situation was always different. Sometimes she slept in really nice 5-star hotels, sometimes she slept right at research facilities in tiny buildings with wooden bunk beds, and sometimes she slept in a tent on the ground.

She remembers, “One night in Namibia with a group of teenagers, the camp had lion tracks nearby, and one of the students had night terrors. I freaked out and rushed to the teen’s tent because I thought the lions had gotten to them.”

She said the majority of the time it’s safe places though, and that the only reason lion tracks were even that close was because the animals felt more freedom to roam places that before Covid they would normally have been pushed out of.

Traveling is important to Alicia for a couple reasons. One big reason is that she didn’t travel much as a kid, but she was always curious. She had always been obsessed with wildlife documentaries, especially about Madagascar and lemurs. She got addicted to learning about different animals, and cultures. Also, it taught her how to be flexible. Now, she experiences life more holistically, she knows that you have to approach situations from many perspectives, and from different backgrounds. Traveling taught her not to be so stubborn, to be more open-minded. In addition, Alicia recognizes that meaningful projects and research doesn’t happen alone. She has become more patient as well. Traveling is how she got where she is now, before her travels she had “a band-aid on things,” but now she knows climate change is real, and can educate people about it.

Her favorite parts of traveling have changed with each trip. It depends on why she’s traveling, where she’s traveling, and who she’s going with. It started as her wanting the experiences and research, but now she loves watching her students learn and grow in these environments.

“Also, the animals help,” she said, and she has seen many animals.

Of course, there’s the lemurs. She told me she cried the first time she saw ring tailed lemurs in person, not in a zoo. The lemurs aren’t the only animals though, there were the wild bonobos, African wild dogs, elephants, giraffes, and more. She said that one of her coolest experiences was actually in Etosha National Park where they had a waterhole for the animals surrounded by red lights. You could see all the animals, and watch their drama unfold.

Alicia is extremely grateful that she had access to grants to afford her travels. She said that if you google the right places and/or topics that you’re interested in, it can be fairly easy to find travel opportunities, along with scholarship opportunities. They can be a work around for how inaccessible traveling is for many people. She highly recommends traveling, and she thinks it’s critical for teenagers to have these opportunities. She wishes it were more available, she also said that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t have access though. There’s always the future.

Alicia continues to travel, and focus her work on her passions. Personally, I think it’d be amazing to have even been on half the adventures she has.

(Lilyan Powers just finished 10th grade at Lake Placid High School. Her English teacher was Brenden Gotham.)


This year’s Biography Writing Contest sponsors are Curtis Lumber, Duff’s Dumpsters, Down and Dirty Excavating Services LLC, Eye Peek, Hyde Fuel, Phinney Design Group, The Bookstore Plus and Tri-Lakes Federal Credit Union.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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