I developed a passionate interest in herps even before I entered elementary school. Later, my mother introduced me to Doris Cochran, the Curator of Herpetology at the Smithsonian in Washington. Doris took time to talk herps with me and gave me run of the Smithsonian's collections. That was surely the start. Later, at age 14, I was infected with the birdwatching bug by my Uncle John. The first day I went out to look for birds on my own, I found a curious long‐billed bird in a small tidal pond. It turned out to be a dowitcher. Well, that was it. I was hooked. I've been a birdwatcher from then on.
During high school, an obsession with bird finding led me to Chandler Robbins, who later authored the popular Golden Guide to the Birds of North America. Chan was the unrivaled guru of birding in the mid‐Atlantic states and every year organized a breathless succession of Christmas bird counts on the Delmarva Peninsula in which I participated. Chan was friendly, open, and encouraging, while at the same time projecting an intensity of purpose and values I found deeply inspiring. By the time I was ready to go to college, I knew I wanted to be a research biologist. It was an easy choice.
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