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Daniel F. Hughes, Ph.D.
ABOUT ME: My childhood in the Mojave Desert of California was filled with outdoor adventures, including many romps into the wilderness to find reptiles and amphibians (herps). Those days in the desert are when my infatuation for nature began. Growing up with a herp-crazy older brother only fueled the fire. Most of our free time was consumed by searching local preserves, road cruising, and keeping many scaly friends. Our parents offered full support for our passion, including an entire wing of the house. My early interests began with toads and lizards and grew to encompass more elusive taxa such as turtles and snakes. Keeping herps also played a role by allowing me a secret glimpse into the lives of the animals I adored.
My passion is the reason I do what I do today. My career is linked to my desire to learn all I can about my cold-blooded peers. This passion has sent me to Pennsylvania, where I searched for Box Turtles and Copperheads while working towards my graduate degree. It enabled me to spend time learning specimen preparation and museum curation at the State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It landed me a field position at Powdermill Nature Reserve to study aquatic turtles. It has sent me to East Africa numerous times to collect specimens for museum collections and discover new species. I want to use my adventures to promote the conservation of wild animals and wild places.
My early research dealt with the community dynamics of snakes living in modified environments. The project aimed to understand the effectiveness of wetland management at based on the resident snake communities. Other research projects included the movements and ecology of aquatic turtles, the reproductive biology of frogs, clutch characteristics of semi-fossorial snakes, population dynamics of grassland-associated snakes, and nesting activities of turtles. My other interests pertain to evolutionary origins, colonization theory, and ultimately how these concepts can be synthesized to learn something new. My experiences have taught me that a solid foundation spanning ecology and evolution with natural history as the guide is extremely important to ask questions about nature. I believe that an open mind is necessary for the curiosity-driven research we do at Coe College.
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