Meeting Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin
One of my longtime wildlife heroes, Jeff Corwin, decided to stop in Utah on his "Tales from the Field" tour. And, of course, I was there.
Jeff is a conservationist who, much like me, became interested in his work after being introduced to the rainforest of Belize during the summer of 1984. My own craziness began after a trip to the Costa Rican jungle in the summer of 2000. I grew up watching Nature programs on PBS (because we didn't have cable or many other forms of entertainment) and crying when the hyenas killed the cheetah babies. But i didn't realize I could actually do something about wildlife until I was in college and took a rainforest ecology and conservation class. Shortly after the class, I applied for a grant to take a rainforest ecology field class in Costa Rica through the Organization for Tropical Studies at Duke University. I was awarded the scholarship and as soon as I stepped foot in that jungle, I felt I was home.
Jeff continued his interest in protecting the threatened rainforests of Central and South America throughout college. He established the Emerald Canopy Rainforest Foundation, a grass-roots organization dedicated to protecting rain forests through educational outreach and habitat conservation, and worked on nature expiditions in Belize. His TV career began during this time and has spiraled ever since. He hosted and produced The Jeff Corwin Experience on Animal Planet.
Jeff has bachelor of science degrees in biology and anthropology from Bridgewater State College, and a master of science degree in wildlife and fisheries conservation from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1999, Bridgewater State College honored Jeff with a doctorate in public education for his work in communicating about the need for a sustainable approach to using natural resources and the importance of conserving endangered species. Jeff firmly believes that through education and awareness, the natural resources, wildlife and ecosystems that make up our planet will be conserved for future generations.
When I was in college I got a job at the Discovery Channel Store, where I discovered Jeff Corwin and fell in love with his work. Our goals are very similar, and I admired the importance he saw in educating the public about issues regarding endangered wildlife and habitat. Plus he's hilarious. So I was really excited to meet him on his "Tales from the Field" tour. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't talk more about his personal experiences. With a name like "Tales from the Field" this is what I expected. Instead he focused on the young audience members and educating them about different animals, bringing various animals on stage to interact with them and describe them. These animals included and American Alligator, giant Boa, a Great-Horned Owl, Kinkajou, Armadillo and Grey Fox. The owl was finicky around men and gave him two giant evil eyes the whole time he was on stage. He stressed the importance of conservation and not keeping wild animals as pets.
After the show he talked a little bit about his experiences during the Q&A. He explained the cutest animal he'd ever seen was the mouse opossum he ran into in the jungle. I also ran into a mouse opposum while working in Belize and also deemed it as the cutest animal I'd ever seen. He claimed the gila monster as his favorite animal, and mosquitos as his least favorite. He was once trapped in a tent all night with 300 of them. I was tempted to tell him it couldn't have been half as bad as my all-nighter in a tent with 300 sandflies. I woke up with a swollen red face (the mosquito netting did nuuuuuthing). His worst animal experience might have been when he got bit by a coral snake and almost died, or perhaps when being charged by a bull-elephant and left behind (with the amped-up elephant) after his camera crew jumped in the car and took off. I could say that my worst animal experience was when I picked up a giant toad and it peed on me, or when two mating bats dropped their load on me as I walked under them in a classroom in Costa Rica while learning about reproduction (these bats happened to be randomly in the classroom, and randomly mating).
While attempting to make conversation with Jeff and get his autograph, I was so worked up and nervous that all I could muster up was my name. But I did ask him for a photograph (apparently. I don't remember much of this blacked-out experience). Suffice it to say, I hope that some day I do get an opportunity to talk with Jeff and share experiences.
To read more about my jungle experiences, check out previous blogs.