Forestry and Natural Resources
Wildlife Extension Specialist & Extension Coordinator
527 Main Street, P.O. Box 265
Brookville, IN 47012
Tell us about your background?
I’m a native of South Bend, Indiana and have been an Extension Wildlife Specialist with the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources at Purdue University since 1999. My most recent research and/or educational programs focus on forest management, human-wildlife conflicts, and wildlife habitat management. I’m also a Certified Wildlife Biologist and a member of The Wildlife Society, the professional organization of wildlife biologists
How did you come to work on Timber Rattlesnakes? What do people need to know about it?
My work with rattlesnakes was part of a larger project, the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment. Researchers from around Indiana, including many from FNR, were studying the effects of timber harvesting on a variety of wildlife species and communities. After the first field season, leaders of the HEE were interested in looking at timber rattlesnakes. I partnered with Zack Walker, the state herpetologist at the time who studied timber rattlesnakes under the direction of Bruce Kingsbury at IPFW. Zack and I had worked together on projects prior to that and it was a good fit for both of us.
One might ask, why study rattlesnakes or what good are they? In recent years, many venomous species including rattlesnakes and copperheads have been integral in developing new treatments for stroke, heart attacks, and even cancer. From an ecological standpoint, it’s important to understand potential impacts of human actions and how to mitigate them. This is especially true for species of conservation concern.
How did you get involved with FNR Extension and outreach?
I finished graduate school in FNR and was looking for full-time employment. Quite frankly, I consider myself lucky in a way. The job opening was good timing for me and the more I talked to people about the job, the more excited I got about the position. I like working with people and wildlife and have been in extension for over 15 years.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I get to work on a wide variety of wildlife issues and stakeholder groups. To accomplish this, I get to meet a number of dedicated landowners and professionals. Interacting with them and projects that help people is the best. I also get outdoors enough to satisfy that interest too.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Many of us in extension are in it because we want to help people and make a difference in their lives. My biggest challenge is developing programs that can make a difference for the thousands of landowners and other audiences throughout the state and beyond. However, there is usually no easy “cookbook” solution to wildlife problems. That means there’s a tradeoff in the number of people you reach but the depth to the information you provide. That’s a tough balance for me at times.
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
Writing and talking. I got into wildlife because I love the outdoors. I never imagined that the most important (and satisfying) part of my career would be working and communicating with people.
Do you have an outside hobby?
I really enjoy basketball. Now that my playing days are winding down, I coach my kids youth basketball teams and have done so for about the past 10 years.