In a Central American jungle, Mexican conservationist Dalia Amor-Conde, 33, makes her living by staring down jaguars and building an impossibly exotic résumé.

Her job: "I tag jaguars with electronic collars that track the animals' movements in the wild. Wherever they live, there must be a thriving habitat to support them; I map out these corridors to protect them from development."

Her office: The Mayan jungle, bordered by Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. "We work in the early-morning hours, and the sounds, the shadows, feeling so overwhelmed by nature that your senses spring to life — there is nothing like it on earth."

Salary: $21K to $25K (in university grants)

Prior experience: Amor-Conde grew up in Mexico City, but her parents took her to "wild places" around the country. Since then, she has trained at a tiger reserve in India and studied human/elephant conflict in Africa.

The biggest challenge: "Avoiding drug runners or illegal cattle ranchers who are threatened by my findings. They see me as the enemy."

Dress code: "On the field, I live in khakis — practicality rules in jungle conditions. When I return to my research [at Duke University], mascara is my first luxury."

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