Contributors

Contributors are individuals that I have invited to regularly publish their work here because of their unique insights, commitment to science outreach, and engaging writing style.

Brian Folt (view Brian's essays)


    I originally hail from the Midwest (Hudson, Ohio), and I received my bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Ohio University (2011). I grew tired of the long, cold winters, however, so I moved South and am now pursuing a Ph.D. in biology at Auburn University. Phenomenal climate and people down here. Most of my research focuses on understanding what influences the distribution and abundance of amphibians and reptiles in the southeastern United States and in the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica. I also dabble in evolutionary biology and systematics.

    I was drawn onto the career path of an academic biologist because I am fascinated by all plants and animals, I believe they are intrinsically valuable, and I would like to conserve them. For these reasons, I am also actively involved in conservation projects studying imperiled species, such as the Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), Map Turtles (Graptemys), and the federally-endangered Alabama Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis). This work has lead to my participation with the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC), where I serve as Secretary. Another facet of my job that I particularly enjoy involves educating others: from college students, to elementary schoolers and the elderly. Because humans are the greatest threat to the maintenance of biodiversity, I believe that outreach and education are among the most effective tools to conserve wildlife, and I hope to educate a greater audience through my contributions at this blog. If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

David Jachowski (view David's essays)



    I am a wildlife biologist interested in the conservation of biodiversity. I have a PhD in wildlife biology from the University of Missouri, and currently conduct research as a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. I also maintain research collaborations in South Africa with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where I am an Honorary Research Associate.

    While I often concentrate my research on mammals, I am interested in the bigger picture of wildlife conservation issues to which this blog is dedicated. Conservationists face the sobering reality that species and ecosystems are often on the decline, mixed with the exhilaration and sense of satisfaction in even small advances to conserve species from extinction. As a scientist, beyond conducting science that is destined for publication in peer-reviewed journals (which are often painful even for me to read), I believe that it is key to distill and make these findings relevant to a wider audience. Further, as I often tell my students, what we see in the landscape around us often tells us where the greatest threats are, and also where there are the greatest opportunities to advance conservation of wildlife. Opportunities that are up to us to grab hold of and nurture, for in the end it is up to us to keep many wildlife species on the planet for future generations. It is with these central tenets in mind that I compose my contributions to this blog.

    I hope you enjoy my posts, and if for some strange reason you want to learn more about me and the type of research/work I undertake, visit
my webpage.

Rebecca Heisman (view Rebecca's essays)

    I grew up in small-town Ohio and have been known to describe myself as a "corn-fed Midwesterner," but my adventures since then have taken me far beyond my Ohio roots - while working on wildlife research and environmental education, I've spent time in the prairies of Saskatchewan, the Australian Outback, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, the North Woods of Wisconsin, and most recently the cattle country of rural eastern Oregon. Currently I'm employed as the communications assistant for ornithology journals The Auk and The Condor, working to promote the latest bird research to the media and the public, and I live in Walla Walla, Washington, where I am engaged in an ongoing battle against the morning glories and raspberries attempting to take over my garden.


    I have a master's degree in environmental education and am involved with Natural Leaders, a Children & Nature Network program for developing young ("millennial") leaders working to engage more people with nature. My primary natural history interests are birds, butterflies, and wildflowers; I'd love to answer your questions about those or any topics related to wildlife or environmental education, so feel free to contact me. I have my own blog at Rebecca in the Woods and am on Twitter as @r_heisman. I hope you enjoy my contributions to Living Alongside Wildlife!

Jim Godwin (view Jim's essays)

    My earliest memories are those of turtles. I vaguely remember someone giving me a hatchling alligator snapping turtle when I was 4 or 5 and catching box turtles when visiting my grandparents in western Arkansas. Thus my interest in herps has been with me my entire life. I grew up in northeastern Arkansas in the Delta in a small town surrounded by farms of cotton, soybeans, and rice. But winding through the town was a slough, a tributary of Village Creek and ultimately the White River (and also home to the White River monster -Google it). Our house was built adjacent to this slough and literally in my backyard were a host of amphibian and reptile species such as three-toed amphiuma, lesser siren, mud snake, broad-banded water snake, diamondback water snake, yellow-bellied water snake, black rat snake, green snake, mud turtle, stinkpot, alligator and common snapping turtles, river cooter, and more. I spent hours hunting turtles, snakes, frogs, and skinks and flipping through an early edition of Conant’s field guide on eastern reptiles and amphibians.

    During my undergrad education I had my first exposure to formal herpetology with Mike Plummer. My next phase of education took me to Auburn University where I was a student under Robert Mount, and also had the good fortune to know George Folkerts, one of the premier naturalists of the southeastern United States.

     Upon leaving Auburn I spent time in Texas and Florida before returning to Alabama to work as the aquatic zoologist with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program (ALNHP). The ALNHP was first with The Nature Conservancy but transferred to Auburn University under the Environmental Institute almost 7 years ago. My work with the ALNHP has been general in nature and over the years I’ve interacted with malacologists, ichthyologists, crayfish biologists, other aquatic ecologists, and, of course, herpetologists. Through a variety of studies I’ve searched rivers and streams for freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish, and fish, but my interests have continued to be more with the amphibians and reptiles. Over the years I’ve been able to refocus my projects on the herps and most recent ones have been on Red Hills salamander conservation, reintroduction of the eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise surveys, Alabama waterdog and flattened musk turtle surveys, and status and distribution of freshwater turtles. Thus, I’ve been able to return to my early herp roots.


Sean Graham (view Sean's essays)



    I’m a southern boy as far as the South is willing to accept me. But my parents are from New York, which makes me a Yankee too. I was born in Georgia and grew up exploring the swamps and woods near my house south of Atlanta. I went on to do a Master’s at Georgia State University on Cottonmouths, and completed my PhD in 2011 at Auburn University in the same lab as David Steen. My research has very broad focus—some might say to a fault. But I’m interested in a lot of topics, and have published papers ranging from physiological studies of amphibians and reptiles to plant pollinator interactions in flowers visited by hawkmoths. I am infatuated with the biodiversity of the Southeast and would like nothing better than to have a bustling lab of graduate students studying all aspects of our country’s biodiversity stronghold. For now I’m content with getting away with what I’ve been getting away with my whole career so far—studying whatever I feel like—rather than participating in the great popularity contest funding sweepstakes that I see too much of in academia.



    In terms of conservation research, my main contribution has been pro bono conservation research on species of special concern. These are usually critters that are not rare enough to be considered endangered but are uncommon enough that we lack key natural history information about them and even a vague notion of their conservation status. This sets up a situation where most of what we know about animals is based upon either extremely common species that are easy to study or those that are on the verge of extinction and receive funding dollars. Species that occupy the middle ground between these extremes often slip through the cracks. These are my favorite species to study.


    I hope you enjoy our essays. Mine will likely focus on what it is like in the conservation trenches.