Growing up in a neighborhood on 10 acres almost completely covered by woods, I would typically spend my days in the woods at a small creek for hours on end. I found salamanders, toads, and turtles all the time; I always loved them, but the rest of my family thought I was a little weird. Little did they know, these experiences would foster my lifelong passion for herpetology.
In addition to playing in the woods, my dad, uncle, and great uncle introduced me to fishing and hunting. While I loved fishing, I gravitated more to hunting. Eventually I began to bow hunt, which allowed me to see interactions among deer and other wildlife that I had only seen in videos or read about in books. After that, I saw wildlife more for its intrinsic value.
However, owing to my skills in math and science, I started as an engineering major at Virginia Tech. Despite succeeding in the program, I felt out of place. I could not stand working inside — I loved the outdoors and knew that I wanted to work outside for my career. The end result was that I changed my major to wildlife conservation. Since then, I have never found myself bored or out of place; I had made my way back to my roots.
I have volunteered and collected salamanders for Professor Carola Haas’ study. I also volunteered with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, extracting lymph nodes as part of their ongoing chronic wasting disease work, and I recently started working in Professor Bill Hopkins’ lab, aiding in the ongoing wood duck project that looks at the effects of incubation temperature on certain behavioral aspects of wood ducklings. I look forward to what I will learn from the Leadership Institute.
After Virginia Tech, I plan on going to graduate school and focusing in herpetology or mammal game species. From there, I hope that one day I will work with a state or federal agency, but for now, I will just wait to see where life takes me.