Gator Wrestlin’

In the swampy bayous of southeastern Texas live some of the most ancient predators on the planet. Stealthy nocturnal hunters lie beneath the surface of the black water, their presence betrayed only by a crimson orange eye shine reflected from our headlamps. These animals have been here long before us, and they will likely be here long after we’re gone. It’s their territory and we must do well to respect it. We are here to study these animals, to better understand their ecology, and moreover to understand the effects of human activity on these apex predators. But in order to do that we must first catch them, an endeavor which is no task for the lighthearted. Continue reading Gator Wrestlin’

Where the West Still Lives

These last six months were a whirlwind. After returning from Asia in the wake of the emerging pandemic, I moved to the tiny western town of Cedarville, California to work a 6 month field season. Situated in Modoc County, one of the most rural areas in California, Cedarville sits in the far northeastern corner of the state, seemingly cut off from civilization by the mighty Warner Mountains to the west and the vast Great Basin Desert to the east. It is a town of mainly cattle ranchers and farmers, and just outside of town lies an endless range where deer and antelope roam. It is here where the West still lives. 

Continue reading Where the West Still Lives

The Enchanted Land of South Sumatra

Mist drifts through the emerald labyrinth of the forest canopy. With no place to escape through the tangled leaves and vines, it rests in the air and clings to our clothes as we trek through the jungle. Vibrant speckles of color periodically pierce through the overwhelming mass of green, as we pass pink flowers of wild ginger, golden hyphae of coral fungi, and iridescent jewel beetles perched on drooping leaves. Joyous hoots of siamang, the world’s largest species of gibbon, ring out from the canopy seemingly above our heads, but I know they are further away than they sound. The more distant wailing of the smaller white-handed gibbons carries with it a somber contrary, as if they were singing the blues of the jungle. We are trekking through a rainforest that has only very rarely been visited by outsiders. An air of mystery permeates through the understory and our innate human curiosity propels us forward. We are on a mission to capture evidence of rare species, and there’s no telling what we will find. Continue reading The Enchanted Land of South Sumatra

The Serpents of Sakaerat

Thailand is a herper’s paradise. Herpetologists and amateur reptile enthusiasts alike flock (or slither) here to observe some of the world’s most fascinating and unique reptiles and amphibians. Thailand is home to over 200 species of snake, many of which are found at Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve. Now that I have finished my six month internship on the king cobra team, I would like to share a little bit about the research that goes on at this amazing research station. Continue reading The Serpents of Sakaerat

Of Temples and Elephants

For the last three months, I have been living in Thailand tracking king cobras as part of an internship at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station. It’s been an incredible experience and I’ve enjoyed this difficult but rewarding work, but sometimes it’s nice to have a break from trekking through the jungle. Earlier this month I got to take an 11 day vacation from my work to travel throughout Southeast Asia. As an anthropology enthusiast and history buff, I took the opportunity to visit some of the most archaeologically significant sites in the area. I explored the great city of Angkor in Cambodia, biked around the vast expanse of temples in Old Bagan, Myanmar, and celebrated the spectacular Yi Peng/Loy Krathong Lantern Festivals in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To wrap it all up, I traveled to the hills of northern Thailand to spend the day with rescued elephants. Continue reading Of Temples and Elephants

The King and I

So what’s it like to handle an 11.5 foot king cobra? It is just as terrifying and adrenaline-pumping as you can imagine! These are the world’s longest venomous snakes, and it goes without saying that they can be a real handful. We use specific tools and methods to keep us and the snake as safe as possible when handling these animals. Handling my first king is no doubt the most intense wildlife experience I’ve ever had. Continue reading The King and I

Joining the King Team

Snakes have always fascinated me. Their sleek, elegant bodies decorated with dazzling colors and intricate patterns along with their undulating, serpentine locomotion are almost mesmerizing.  Snakes lead secretive lives spent stealthily slithering around on their bellies, and they occupy nearly every habitat and have filled almost every kind of niche worldwide. Everything about their being seems so different from what we’re familiar with (or some might say comfortable with), that they seem to have a special air of mystery about them shared by few others in the animal kingdom. Like many of my wildlife biology peers, I grew up watching television shows on Animal Planet and National Geographic showcasing the often feared and misunderstood animals like crocodiles, venomous snakes, and arthropods. As a young child, watching Steve Irwin passionately explain the intricate biology of the numerous deadly snakes in Australia had an indelible effect on me, and I’ve been captivated by these creatures ever since. So now, years later, I find myself in a foreign country working on one of the most significant snake ecology projects in the world, studying perhaps the most majestic species of all– the king cobra. Continue reading Joining the King Team

Madagascar: Reflections on a Naturalist’s Paradise

After three months in Madagascar, I have returned to my home in California, and looking back at this whirlwind of a journey I feel compelled to give a brief account of what I’ve learned on my travels as well as my perspective on the state of the environment in the country. This adventure has no doubt been my most exotic and eye-opening experience in wildlife conservation yet. Working for the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP) was a real privilege and I learned so much about what it takes to work in a developing country. However, there is still a very long and difficult road ahead for the economic development of the country and the conservation of its natural resources. I’ll get into more of this later on in my post but I first want to switch gears and start off by talking a little bit about the natural history of Madagascar and the amazing wildlife I got to see on the island during my time there. Continue reading Madagascar: Reflections on a Naturalist’s Paradise

Welcome to Kianjavato!

A lot has happened since I last posted, but without a secure WiFi connection, I’ve been unable to post this until now. A few weeks ago I left Andasibe and after spending a night in Tana, made the long, bumpy twelve hour van ride to the small commune of Kianjavato in the Southeast of Madagascar. I arrived late in the evening at Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station, or KAFS for short. I climbed more than one hundred uneven slippery wooden steps up to the residency sites, where I pitched my tent under a grass-roofed structure and unpacked my belongings at the site where I would call home for the next six weeks. Continue reading Welcome to Kianjavato!

Quest for the golden mantella

This past Saturday I travelled with the other American volunteer here, Daniel Keeley, to Torotorofotsy Wetlands, a protected area managed by the conservation organizations, Mitsinjo and Asity Madagascar. Our objective: to find the golden mantella, a little frog native only to this small area of Madagascar. The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a critically endangered species. Like many endangered animals, habitat destruction is the biggest threat to the species, and the devastating chytrid fungus which has killed off frog populations all over the world may be a factor as well. The golden mantella is one of the rarest frogs in the world and its confinement to only a few local areas makes it the subject of one of Madagascar’s most intensive conservation programs, and one of the biggest amphibian conservation initiatives anywhere in the world. Continue reading Quest for the golden mantella

Science, Wildlife, and Adventure

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