A Message from Tobias, the new AF Director of Research

Me, rather excited about finding my first Spotted Salamander in Georgia (AWARE, Lithonia, GA)
“Hi, I’m Tobias, the new Director of Research here at the Amphibian Foundation.”, I said to a new acquaintance at our headquarters at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. She smiled and welcomed me to the building as though what I said to her was normal and not at all unbelievable. 

My six year old self had a dream to be a ‘natural wildlife preserver’ which has essentially come true now, but not how you might think. I never really knew what I was doing or had a real career plan. My path has been indirect to put it mildly. Dropping out of high school is not a detour likely to get someone into academia. A lot of people wander through life and find themselves drawn back to nature and conservation. And here I am with a plan to start something for people like me who are off the beaten path. 

There’s so many ways people get off track or leak out of the academic pipeline. If you love animals, people will probably tell you to get a job related to your biological interests. Get a biology degree that will ensure you a good job and become a doctor or a physical therapist or a physician assistant. But this plan doesn’t work out for many young people who find biology departments more competitive than collaborative. Many wonderful students find that despite the incredible amount of effort and learning they are doing in the dreaded “weed-out’ classes, they are not achieving grades that will get them undergraduate research experience or into a graduate program. Passionate and hard-working students  find out they weren’t well-prepared academically by their primary schools. Delightful, engaging, and smart students may need a break during their college experience because of family, health or financial reasons. And inspiring leaders can end up not being fulfilled by their chosen paths even after they graduate college. 
Me, Sarah (our first Bridge Program Research Assistant) and Javiera (AF International Research Intern) outside of Alligator Creek WMA, a Bridge Program study site for Gopher Frogs (Rana capito)

For all these people who have so much to offer and so much passion to learn and such rich diversity of experience to share, we have created a bridge into conservation research.  Together with the amazing people at the Amphibian Foundation and with our many partners and opportunities I am fulfilling my dream of dedicating my life and work to saving my favorite animals from extinction. And the best, most satisfying and surprising thing for me is that fulfilling my dream is made possible by creating a bridge for other people to join us and enter the field of conservation. 

For more information about the Amphibian Foundation's Bridge Program for Conservation Research, please visit: http://bridge.amphibianfoundation.org/


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