I am a graduate student at Auburn University and my Ph.D. dissertation research focuses on the ecology and physiology of the American Crocodile in Costa Rica. I am interested in trying to figure out if and why there are more males reported in the population than females and whether this contributes to these animals having a bad reputation. For example, the dispersal of male crocs into encroaching agricultural or residential areas increases the potential for fear, if not confrontation. A year ago a talented crocodilian handler and TV personality, a production company, and Animal Planet approached me to film a documentary style piece on the situation and my research for national TV. At first, I was very conflicted about whether I should get involved.
As many are aware, biologists often shy away from getting involved in television shows like this because they are plagued by misquotes and out-of-context clips and phrases, or include other tricks to manipulate the message and make the show more entertaining than educational. I think this has made biologists relatively inaccessible to the general public and has resulted in many people getting their information about the natural world from sources other than experts in their field. Myself, the cast, the research team and the production personnel agreed to the filming with three main goals in mind:
1) to expose the interesting issues that surround a system that we hold dear
2) to balance the scale between flashy action and natural education such that all action is real and used as a vehicle to deliver well-rounded depiction of the research and system, and
3) to humbly attempt to provide an unbiased perspective from the people doing biological research in that system.
I have a lot of pride in what my research team had accomplished and I did not want our work to be diminished by being associated with a possibly sensational show. But, I thought it would be worth the risk if we could accomplish these goals. I believe the footage shot and detailed storyline paints a fair and accurate picture that is engaging, educational and accessible to the viewer… I hope I’m right.
I hope you will tune in this Friday (May 22nd) at 9 pm EST to “Monster Croc Invasion,” a part of Animal Planet’s Monster Week. While the title itself seems to tip the scale in the favor of sheer entertainment, we hope you find that the content provides educational balance to some extent. I hope to hear from you regarding what you thought of the show, did it accomplish the goals that I wanted it to? Please leave your comments below and I will check back in as soon I can to respond and answer any questions you may have about the show or the crocodiles I study. I thank you in advance.