Photograph by Samantha Klaus
Photograph by Byron Cavanaugh
Birthplace: Quebec, Canada
Current City: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved the idea of working with animals. In high school, I started realizing how much I enjoyed research and addressing scientific questions. Through these two passions, I was inspired to pursue conservation biology.
How did you get started in your field of work?
My first experience with field research was through a field course I took in the second year of my undergraduate degree. The field course was held at the Queen's University Biological Station and was run by my future supervisor. In this field course, I gained experience in survey methods of amphibians and reptiles. Additionally, in my fourth year I performed an undergraduate thesis on the acoustic behavior of field crickets. It was through my field course and thesis experience with acoustic data that I became well prepared to pursue a graduate degree in acoustic monitoring of frogs.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to conservation?
I have always been passionate about conservation, particularly of wetlands, as I have spent a significant amount of my childhood being fascinated by them. Working in conservation biology can be very rewarding, as you have the opportunity to delve deeper into the issues facing wildlife populations and develop better management strategies for maintaining biodiversity. I am still fascinated by wetlands; working in a field for which I feel passionate inspires me to dedicate myself to this field.
What's a normal day like for you?
A normal day consists of waking up early to obtain the results of my automatic species recognizing program, which has been running all night. While I've slept, the program has determined the presence/absence of a species of frog using acoustic data from the survey stations. Once the program is running again, I head to my research lab, where I begin the task of drilling and installing solar panels onto my acoustic recorders. It may take a couple of months to prepare the survey stations before they can be set up to record for four to five months of the year. Once a survey station is ready, I head out in the research vehicle to one of the 25 locations in eastern Ontario where we will be detecting the chorus activity of frog species. I put on my waders and head deep into the marshland in order to get an accurate reading of chorus activity, as well as the microclimate variables we aim to study. Once back in the lab, I test the accuracy of the recognizing program by listening to a subset of the survey station data by ear. The rest of the night is spent performing the statistical analysis of the dataset and editing my manuscript.
Do you have a hero and, if so, why is this person your hero?
My heroes are the caretakers at the Ottawa Wild Bird Care Center. They are a charitable organization that assesses, treats, and rehabilitates sick, orphaned, or injured wild birds before releasing them back to the wild. I was fortunate enough to visit the center, and volunteer there, as a child and came to appreciate the importance of respecting nature. The individuals who work at the center have a contagious passion for wildlife protection, which inspires me.
What's been your favorite experience in the field? Most challenging?
My favorite experience in the field was the first time I was able to bring volunteers with me to my survey sites. It is very rewarding to instill an interest in biology in others and to give them the opportunity to experience field research firsthand. The most challenging experience was learning not to continuously worry about my survey stations. As the stations are autonomous and require little maintenance, they need only be visited once every month at most. As a new graduate, I wanted to ensure everything was working perfectly. I had to learn to trust my research abilities and know the strengths/weaknesses of my equipment.
What are your other passions?
I am passionate about public outreach and education; I currently am an executive member on the Society for Conservation Biology, Kingston chapter. I help to organize an event called Fish and Frogs, which is meant to educate youth in the community about storm-drain pollution and get them excited about conservation. I am also passionate about learning languages; I currently speak English, French, and Italian, and I would like to one day learn Spanish.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I volunteer with Junior Naturalists, which is a group that aims to get youth interested in conservation and teach youth about respecting nature. I also enjoy hiking and karaoke.
If you could have people do one thing to help save frogs, what would it be?
A very simple thing that people could do to help frogs is to slow down and let them pass if they see them on the road. Frog mortality on roads, especially during the spring/summer breeding season, is visibly destructive. When it is safe to slow down, it is an easy way to preserve a life.
Latest Explorer News
- December 8, 2013: Discovering Record Setting Remains, Climbing Antarctic Peaks and More
- SeaOrbiter: Help Build This Space Station of the Sea
- Reforesting Madagascar’s Highlands: A (Poetic) Lesson From Nature
- Ferrets In the Night – Recovery Efforts Continue for Masked Bandits in Montana
- Hunting is Not a Hot Topic: An Interview with Dereck and Beverly Joubert
- Fuel For Thought: Is There Hope For Africa?
- Breaking the Silence: SMS Helps Liberian Schools to Improve Education
- Giving to Something Bigger Than Ourselves on #GivingTuesday
- Give Back to the Ocean on #GivingTuesday
- Be Part of One of the Largest Conservation Efforts in American History
Follow @NatGeoExplorers on Twitter
Explorers Updates on Instagram
In Their Words
I am still fascinated by wetlands; working in a field for which I feel passionate inspires me to dedicate myself to this field.
Sarah talks about her inspirations before departing for Ellesmere Island.
Meet Our Biologists
Datta explores the conservation challenges facing one of India's last vast tracts of wilderness.
Newsletter: Explorer Updates
Stay in the know with updates about National Geographic with our newsletter.
Our Explorers in Action
Meet female explorers who have pushed the limits in adventure, science, and more.