My Herp History
My childhood in the Mojave Desert of California was filled with outdoor adventures, including many searches for reptiles and amphibians (herps). During those sweltering days in the desert is where my infatuation for herps began. Growing up with a herp-crazy brother only fueled the fire. Most of our free time was consumed by searches in local preserves, road cruising, and keeping many of our 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 major role in boosting my interests by allowing a special glimpse into the lives of the animals I adored.
My passion for biodiversity is the main reason I do what I do today. My long-term career goals are linked to my desire for learning 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-herpetology position at the Powdermill Nature Reserve to study Snapping and Painted Turtles. It has sent me to Central Africa three times to collect herps for my dissertation research. I want to use my adventures to promote conservation so future generations can be inspired like me.
My master's research dealt with the community dynamics of snakes occupying wetlands in a modified environment. The project aimed to understand the effectiveness of wetland management at the facility based on a sampling of the snake communities. Other research projects include 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. I focus on using both descriptive and experimental approaches to address questions concerning the diversity and abundance of wild animals. My experiences have taught me that a solid foundation that spans ecology, evolution, and natural history is extremely important to synthesize data derived
from diverse techniques. Having an open mind is also something that I believe is a necessary element to my integrative research program. My career goals are to expand my interests into other research fields, initiate long-term projects, and build collaborations and relationships to better integrate scientific results across fields.