Fortunately for me, I spent a semester in college doing just that and decided, before I committed too deeply, that there were only so many days that I could sleep on the ground and eat rice and beans for every meal before my body started to break, all while walking fifteen miles a day without seeing a single animal, and so it was back to zookeeping I went.
None of which is to say that important fieldwork with wildlife can only happen in the Serengeti, the Amazon, or some other far off place. In fact, there is an excellent program, sponsored by the AZA, that gives anyone who is interested the chance to become a citizen-scientist and take a crack at fighting one of the major extinction challenges of our times.
FrogWatch USA is a community-based conservation plan that trains folks to monitor populations of amphibians in our own backyards. Because frogs and toads are some of the species which are the most sensitive to environmental changes, they serve as an indicator species for the health of a wetland ecosystem. Furthermore, unlike many vertebrates they are quite vocal - for every spring peeper I've ever seen with the naked eye, I've heard hundreds chorusing on an April evening. Volunteers are trained to identify frogs and toads by their calls and then submit their findings to scientific authorities. This will allow biologists to monitor trends in amphibian populations.
Joining Frogwatch USA is easy. Chapters can be formed by any interested party and are led by trained experts, who will mentor participants in how to identify and record their findings. Data is made available for all, mapped out and analyzed by the National Geographic Society. Participants will have the chance to get to know their local habitats better, to contribute to the conservation of declining species, and to enjoy friendship and fellowship with others with similar interests. WHen look back on my college years, for every happy memory from the classroom, I've usually got two or three from being out herping with my friends.
To learn more about FrogWatch, or to get started, email firstname.lastname@example.org - and happy frogging!