I have had great mentors who taught me the importance of sharing knowledge with others
Translating scientific findings to a broader audience inspires people’s sense of wonderment in the natural world and emphasizes their place in it, which is necessary for people to practice more sustainable lifestyles. I have always gone out of my way to promote science and engage the public through outreach.
The greatest challenge I have in promoting science and conservation is reaching a diverse audience. Like an ecosystem itself, our scientific community is stronger when it has diversity. I believe it is a responsibility of the scientific community to diversify our field and I promote this whenever possible; in developing countries as well as here at home.
My role as an educator has taken many forms: from giving countless presentations to school children in Tucson while chairman of the Tucson Herpetological Society Speakers Bureau to designing and co-instructing a Desert Ecology and Conservation Biology Study Abroad program in Namibia offered through the University of Arizona where we take graduate and undergraduate students into the field for a 6-week, hands-on learning experience.
In addition to giving public presentations for communities and organizations, I have participated in television and radio interviews and have written science articles geared for a general audience, one of which was published in the Spanish-language magazine, Especies. I have been the invited speaker for over a dozen professional meetings, non-profit and academic lecture series.
I have also been very fortunate to participate as a National Geographic Expert for National Geographic Expeditions. My role is to accompany ecotourism expeditions primarily as a lecturer and teacher where I present relevant, scientific topics to participants. Since 2001 I have led over 20 programs to U.S. National Parks, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. In addition to adult programs, I also participate in family and student programs and have designed and implemented multiple activities to engage participants such as photo scavenger hunts, geocaching exercises and activity books.
As a herpetologist, I particularly try to cultivate people’s interest in turtles, snakes, frogs, and other species that may not be on their top-ten list when they sign up for one of these adventures. I take a myopic approach toward my interpretation of biodiversity where wonderment can be found in the mutualism of a small ant carrying a leaf. No one expects to go to the Amazon to be wowed by the turtles, but after a week with me, I hope that they go home appreciating these animals in a way they never did before.