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.

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.