Science show host Liz Bonnin hangs with tigers, wolves 'n' whales on the regular

Somewhere between Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and Bill Nye the Science Guy is Liz Bonnin, wildlife presenter and host of the BBC America show Bang Goes the Theory, which explores fascinating areas of science live on camera. She travels all over the world to bring you as close as possible to the most cutting-edge research scientists are currently conducting. And you know what? She couldn’t be happier. Here’s her story…

All about me

In high school, I was… a bit of a nerd – I loved chemistry and biology and was perhaps a little too obsessed with taking perfect notes and having all my folders in order! But I guess when you love something you want to do it well.

My first job was… a summer job when I was in university, which involved driving around the Irish countryside in a camper van with a DJ, holding discos in various venues. The best bit was driving the camper onto one of the many stunning beaches of the west coast after the parties, and waking up to the stunning sunrises.

When I very young I wanted to be… a ballerina, but as I grew up I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. All I knew is that I loved science and asking questions about the world. Ever since I was very small I used to stare at animals a lot, which I think must have worried my parents a little! I used to wonder about the tiny hearts that beat in the bodies of the small birds in my back garden and how incredible it was that everything worked on such a small scale - the movement of their eyes in their sockets, the way they pecked at worms in the ground and took off into the sky - and I also wondered what they were thinking when they looked around at me.

At university, I…really enjoyed studying biochemistry because it allowed me to combine my two favorite subjects and understand all the different functions of living things down to the smallest scale - down to the elements and chemical equations that were involved. I also sang in a band and spent a lot of time in County Clare, on the West Coast, which is very beautiful and wild.

Quite a few years later I went back to school to get a Masters in Wild Animal Biology, because I knew I wanted to understand the science of animals, particularly tigers, which I am very passionate about.

And right now, I am a…science and wildlife presenter with BBC [America] and I love it!

What I do

In a nutshell, I…get to find out the answers to all the things I’m curious about and I get the chance to communicate my love of science. I feel very lucky to be able to do so, especially when I get to meet the incredible scientists who are working on projects that make a real difference to our planet. To me they are real heroes.

When I tell people what I do, they think it’s… quite cool, because I get to travel the world and do some pretty exciting things.

The best part of my day is… when I meet a scientist who is doing something groundbreaking and exciting. It makes me want to go back to school and study what they are doing! There is nothing more wondrous and exciting than the world we live in and finding out about it is an endless adventure.

The worst part of my job is… that sometimes living out of a suitcase for weeks on end can be a little bit tiring.

I got my job by… working very hard at my Masters degree so that I felt I was qualified to be a science presenter with BBC [America]. I was also at the right place at the right time as BBC [America] was beginning to audition for Bang Goes the Theory just as I was finishing my exams.

My biggest career achievement so far is… making a success of a brand new science magazine show Bang Goes the Theory. We didn’t know how it would be received but we trusted that if we presented science stories that excited us, it would excite our viewers too.

My next career goal is… really just to continue doing what I love and keep challenging and pushing myself so that I can be a better science communicator. I spent last winter in the Russian Far East filming a series on Siberian tigers and that was a dream come true so I do hope I get to continue doing this job for many years to come!

And how you can do it, too

This job might be right for you if… you love science and asking questions about the world, and if you want to be a part of inspiring people and young scientists of the future. 

You might want to try something else if… you don’t like working long hours and having to think on your feet 24-7.

The one thing you need to do right now is… try out every subject and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s OK not to have all the answers about your future, now is the time to be open to all options. The most important thing is to do what you love, no matter what that is, because it will turn a day job into a passion that you can’t wait to get out of bed for. Anything is possible, but you do have to work hard to achieve your dreams!

When you’re thinking about college, consider… where you see yourself in the future, if there were no limitations, if anything was possible. Write all those thoughts down, and what the dream job is, and then you can begin to pick subjects that can get you there. But it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what subjects you want to do, you can always shift and change later on. I’m a firm believer that it is never too late - I did my Masters 10 years after my undergraduate degree - you should never feel as if anything is out of your reach at any point in your life.

My best advice for getting a job, whatever that job is, is… to do your research. The internet has everything you need to get to you there. Look up the things you like, find out what they are like through blogs and websites. And don’t be afraid to contact people for advice and guidance, it’s really helpful to meet people who are doing the job you like and get their take on it. I have always found science presenters to be open to sharing their experiences because they tend to be people are keen to inspire others.

You can watch Liz on BBC America’s Bang Goes the Theory, which airs on Tuesday nights at 9p.m.—check your local listings!

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by Brittany Taylor | 2/1/2016
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