Hey all, (long but paints a pretty good picture of my history)
I was born in Indiana but my family moved to Spring, Texas when I was about one year old. While a neonate in SE Texas, I spent a lot of time outdoors fishing and chasing creepy-crawlies. It didn't take long for me to develop an addiction to finding herps; especially snakes. Fortunately I was living in an area of the country that made this easy on a young enthusiastic herp nerd. We had many of the native SE TX species residing within our neighborhood (some even calling our backyard home). I was able to maintain this interest throughout my pre-teen and early teen years but just before high school my family decided to move to New Ulm, Minnesota (rural MN) to be closer to extended family.
This move from a herp-mecca (IMO) to the frozen tundra of the north was far from exciting for a young boy interested in chasing herps. Because of this, herping was put on the back-burner (although not completely forgotten), while I chased girls in-lieu of herps.
As I neared high school graduation I began to think about what sort of career I wanted to pursue. Fortunately I was able to take several biology and zoology courses in high school and decided that I wanted to turn my passion for herps into a career studying and conserving this often under-appreciated group of organisms.
After high school I moved to Minneapolis, MN to attend college. Being out on my own gave me an opportunity to own a few herps that my family didn't want living under their roof (though they did let me keep a few things from time to time). I quickly became interested in Erycines (Family Boidae; Subfamily Erycinae
), though I cannot really explain why. I have successfully kept and bred many of the species from this group. At this time I also started a herp breeding business called, "Captive Bred Herps."
with the goal of breeding the less commonly kept stuff and making captive bred babies available to interested keepers. While this is strictly a side business (hobby really), it keeps me fairly busy and even turns a profit some years.
During my first couple years of college, I quickly realized that most schools do not offer degrees in herpetology per se
, but rather students are required to select a discipline (evolutionary biology, conservation biology, wildlife management, toxicology, forestry, and the list goes on....) and incorporate their interests into their selected field of study. Upon this realization, I transferred in to the Fisheries and Wildlife program at the University of Minnesota
with an emphasis on Wildlife Biology. While most courses focused on large mammals and waterfowl, I knew the underlying teachings were applicable to other taxonomic groups. Where possible, I selected herp species of interest for class projects and reports. During my junior and senior years of my undergraduate experience, I was able to work my way into a few labs that included herps into their research questions. Projects ranged from things like evolutionary history of diurnality in geckos (which will hopefully be published soon) to the geographic distribution of turtles along the upper Mississippi River. One valuable lesson I learned from these opportunities was that I preferred applied research over theoretical work; I didn't want to be stuck in a lab! As with many here, I travel to far away places as often as possible to herp!
After finishing my undergrad, I had the opportunity to take a funded research assistantship at the U. of Minnesota in the Conservation Biology Program
. My work focused on the, "Initial Response of Amphibians and Small Mammals to Timber and Coarse Woody Debris Harvest." During this time, I also started several side projects primarily aimed at geographical distribution of Midwest herpetofauna. I recently finished my Master's work (defended in Feb. 2012). After I defended my MS work, I applied to be recognized as a certified Associate Wildlife Biologist through the Wildlife Society
(no easy feat), which I was awarded.
During my MS work, I also started working for the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources conducting rare species surveys in remaining prairie and oak savanna areas, which later turned into a project studying Plains (or Western) Hognose Snake spatial ecology (some cool stuff was learned; will post links to articles when published).
In May 2012, I accepted a full-time position with MN DNR as a nongame wildlife biologist (pretty much my dream job). Now I get to work with herps nearly everyday (and get paid)!
Well, just in case any of you are still reading, I am also actively involved in the FHF and NAFHA community. Given that I come from diverse background of herpetological related interests (hobby herping, captive breeding and now professional herpetology), I am interested in the role private citizens can play in the conservation of my favorite group of organisms. Citizen science, while not a new idea, certainly has a lot of hurdles to overcome. As such, I have tried to stay active in all aspects of the community
and currently sit as the International Coordinator of NAFHA
, President of the Minnesota Herpetological Society
, and advisor to the Midwest Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (MW PARC)
Ok... I am done for now. Feel free to PM me any time to talk or with questions.