Growing up in Florida, running through the woods and swamps collecting nests, skulls, skins, plants, and fossils, I was driven to understand the world. I thought it was kids’ work because adults wore suits and worked in offices. So the first most influential “paper” in my career was a brochure picked up from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission at the State Fair when I was maybe 13: “Your Game Biologist.” I never became a game biologist, but I learned you can be paid to run through the woods and swamps, and try to understand the world.
After a freshman year that worked out poorly and three years working construction, I returned to the University of South Florida in 1974 with renewed passion. I loved my classes, textbooks, and professors, but the most important experiences were outside the classes. First was Roy McDiarmid's herpetology laboratory, where I began learning the hands‐on practice of ecology. Second was the library. There was nothing electronic, and computers were the size of buildings. For the latest science, you went to the library and held a journal in your hands. It was a time when you could keep up with the literature, and I devoured everything, reading broadly and passionately. There were many inspirations, but one stood out. Dan Janzen always showed me new ways to see the world whether talking about mountain passes (1967. American Naturalist 101:233–249) or blackwater rivers (1974. Biotropica 6:69–103).
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