This week, in the United States, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This holiday is a time for recognizing the things and special people we are thankful for. Aside from stuffing ourselves with roasted turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, the day is spent with friends and family. In addition, I thought it would be the most fitting time to give thanks to all those special people who have inspired me over the years and helped cultivate my passion for wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. If not for these wonderful people, I would not be who I am today.
As a child, through the pages of National Geographic, I followed Dr. Jane Goodall on many adventures. Studying chimpanzees in her field station in Gombe, Jane discovered one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th Century; man is not the only tool maker. Sometimes chastised for being a woman with unorthodox research techniques, Dr. Goodall ignored the naysayers and stayed true to herself. With kindness, compassion, and an undying spirit, Dr. Jane is a true role model for children and grown-ups alike. She is certainly someone I still aspire to be.
Together with BBC, Sir David Attenborough educated generations on the natural world. With his distinct voice and calm demeanor, Sir David took viewers around the world and instilled in them a greater understanding and appreciation of all creatures great and small. When I was younger, I pictured Attenborough in a pith helmet traveling through the densest jungles and dodging deadly strikes from the world’s most deadliest creatures. Instead, however, Sir David stayed out of the fray, participating as an observer from afar. Still filming with BBC, the most recent documentary series Life, Sir David Attenborough continues his tireless campaign to showcase the world’s natural treasures; I hope he realizes he himself is a true treasure.
The epitome of a wildlife warrior, Steve Irwin enthusiastically brought millions of viewers up close and personal with wildlife and wild areas. With his battle cry of “Crikey!,” Steve shared every heartbreak and joy that he encountered in his worldly treks into nature. Steve wore his heart on his sleeve; a trait that made us love him all the more. Loosing Steve in 2006 was devastating. Wildlife lost its biggest proponent, leaving some huge boots to fill. There is no question that Steve’s work must be carried on. The man who inspired me to be passionate and follow my dreams to ultimately and help conserve wildlife forever lives in my thoughts and heart. Why I even have “Crikey” on my license plate! As I now travel through the world and help wildlife conservation and habitat preservation, I can’t help but think Steve would be proud.
It has been a very long six years in graduate school working on my Masters and Doctoral degrees, and my husband, Andrew, has been my rock every step of the way. With constant encouragement and support, Andy always makes me feel like anything is achievable. Regardless of task, Andy is always the first to jump on board to help with any research project I come up with. My success is just as much his; I could not do any of this without him. Whether we are at the bottom of the ocean looking for Sand Tiger sharks, hiking through leach infested rainforest in Australia, or searching the rocky outcrops in the mountains of West Virginia for rattlesnakes, Andy is eagerly by my side, with a warm smile and kind words of support.
Last, but definitely not least, I am thankful for all the people who are interested in wildlife and habitat, and most importantly care enough to want to save it. I am fortunate to meet such wonderful people who are themselves passionate and work tirelessly to preserve the natural world. I continue to be inspired by children raising money to help rehabilitate injured wildlife; families turning their backyards into beautiful wildlife habitats complete with bird feeders, bat boxes, and wild flowers; and people spending their hard earned vacation time to volunteer in remote areas to help protect wildlife. Together we can change the world. I thank you all very much!