Ever since I was a young teen, I have had a fascination (some might say "obsession") with reptiles and amphibians. I had spent much of my youth chasing frogs, toads, and skinks around my grandparents’ farm, and during my sophomore year of high school, I obtained my first exotic pets- a pair of Asian Cascade Frogs (Rana lividia). Little did I know at age 15 that those frogs were members of a poorly understood, possibly threatened species. I set them up in an elaborate naturalistic vivarium, complete with living plants and a filtered water system, and they thrived. From there, I moved on to expand my hobby, eventually culminating with experience in captive maintenance and breeding of close to forty species of herpetofauna.
But I'd always wanted to get involved in habitat conservation and herpetological field research. In 2008, an opportunity presented itself. For five years after I graduated college in 2003, I worked in a soul-killing industry, hating every single day that I woke up. When the chance came to go to Puerto Rico to work as a volunteer herpetologist, I had a tough decision to make. Long story short, after selling most of my belongings and buying a ticket, I landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was supposed to stay for three months researching anoles in the forests on the south side of the island. I never left.
That was not my plan. I had intended to make myself into a globe-trotting do-gooder, seeing my future self as a cross between Steve Irwin (mainly his zeal) and Sir David Attenbourgh (mainly his dry wit and pudginess). But, I fell in love with Puerto Rico. I continued my research in the forests, and now here I am, three years later, applying to graduate schools across the island. My research projects are winding down, my data is being analyzed, and I hope to publish my findings later this year.
In no small part due to my research in Puerto Rico, I have been offered an amazing opportunity. For three months this summer, I plan to take a “sabbatical” from Puerto Rico and volunteer/assist at three different projects in Panama and Bolivia. All three are described below, but first, I wanted to express the importance of this trip to me.
My research in Puerto Rico is an experience that I would not trade for anything. However, as my research was conducted out of my own interest and yearning, I have only recently begun making headway into the academic circles necessary to further my education. At all three of these projects, I will have the benefit of working with well-established experts; this is a pivotal moment in my journey to become the best herpetologist and ecologist I can be.
Furthermore, all three of these projects will allow me to partake in a “full immersion” into the Spanish Language, which is crucial if I am to attend Graduate School in Puerto Rico. Not only will I perfect my conversational Spanish, but I will learn the language’s scientific lingo, a necessity as I have already vowed that if I attend school in a Spanish speaking country, I intend to write my thesis in Spanish, whether it is required or not.
But, most importantly, this trip is the continuation of a life’s dream. You only live once, and we all have such a short time on this beautiful planet, so I'm following my passion, no matter how obscure it might seem. I have gone from a po-dunk farm boy to a scientist who can actually work with, and help protect, the animals that I used to see on Maryland Public Television Nature Programs that I watched with my grandfather as a young child. I really can’t explain in words how that feels.
One way or another, this trip will happen. As we all know, when a global recession is occurring, spare money to help save the frogs and snakes isn’t just laying about the place. That is why I started this page. I’m making an attempt to crowd-source conservation. All told, I plan to spend approximately 100 days in Panama and Boliva, and after examining the costs associated with food, travel, visas, and insurance, my estimate is that I will need $5,000.00 USD to complete this trip.
I hope that after reading this, you will consider making a donation. I also hope that you will use whatever social media you have available to you- Facebook, Twitter, etc, to spread the word. With thousands of people reading this, I'm optimistic about reaching my goal amount before the deadline. This is $5,000.00 that can do some real good in the world, and I hope that you will consider donating to help not only me, but all of the threatened wildlife out there that I'll be researching.
If you're interested in learning more about the places where I'll be volunteering/assisting, I've included the links below:
1. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in Gamboa, Republic of Panama
2. The La MICA Biological Station in El Copé, Coclé Province, Republic of Panama
3. The Bolivian Amphibian Initiative in Cochabama, Boliva
Please do not hesitate to contact me via this page if you have any questions before donating. I want every single person who donates to feel that they are contributing to a worthwhile endeavor. Everyone who donates will be allowed to follow a private blog I am setting up for my trip, which will give you exclusive access to photos, as well as footage of the very likely possibility of me falling into a river, hitting my head on an overhanging tree branch, or some other physically hysterical happening that demonstrates my lack of grace.
Thanks in advance,