Herpetologist Highlight

1 Name:Jennifer Deitloff
2. Age: 37
3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: https://lockhaven.edu/biologydep/faculty/JenniferDeitloff.html
Twitter: @SalamanderJenn
4. Where do you work? Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
5. Position: Associate Professor (newly promoted!)
6. How did you get there? My path to Lock Haven hasn’t been all cupcakes and unicorns. I have always been curious about the natural world, but growing up in Nebraska, there wasn't much of it: a plot of woods in the middle of town or between corn fields. But, because of a couple great biology teachers in high school and biology professors in college, I became excited to pursue a career in biology. During interviews for graduate school, my future Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Dean Adams, infected me with his enthusiasm for salamanders, and I ended up in his lab studying behavior of salamanders at Iowa State University.
Following graduate school, I was a postdoc with Dr. Craig Guyer at Auburn University. Craig's lab was conceptually diverse, as long as a herp was involved in the study. Because of this, I was able to work on a variety of herps and topics. Craig also supported my passion for teaching and for undergraduate research. I was able to gain experience as the instructor of record for several courses and allowing me to mentor over 15 students which resulted in several publications with undergraduate co-authors.

Following this postdoc, I had a second, less positive, postdoc and several adjunct positions for about 2 years. Through many applications, interviews, and 1 job offer that I said no to, I became more and more selective about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Mostly, this was because it was important to my husband that we live in an area with family and community support. It was hard for me to accept this "request" when applying for jobs, but now I am very thankful for his stubbornness in this regard. As it turned out, I was able to get a job in my husband's hometown with family and numerous family friends nearby. I cannot imagine being able to do my job or be involved at the level that I am without this support.

7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?  (1) It was very difficult to admit that I couldn't live in the middle of "nowhere" just for a job. While I agree that to be in academia, you need to be willing to move and to move several times, we also have to realize the importance of having a community of supportive people who love us. I sincerely love my job, I love where I live, and I enjoy spending time with my family; thankfully I am able to mesh all these things together because of making the choice to live near family support.

(2) I've made the commitment (over and over) to be myself and stand up for what I believe in. I've had to put myself at risk to do so in many situations and have repeatedly been advised to lay low or be quiet by well-meaning people. None of us should have to endure work place abuse, and, I believe, it is the bystanders (especially if coming from a place of power) that need to speak up, not the individuals enduring any form of abuse/bias. I have been both the victim and the bystander speaking out. As the former, I was not believed or told I was being too sensitive. As the latter, people were more willing to listen and positively respond.

8. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?   Here's my answer for the first part of this question: Getting degrees in science is hard (emotionally and physically); getting a faculty position in biology requires persistence, motivation, hard-work, and, more often than not, sacrifice. I have also had luck in finding the right "fit" in my current job. If you can persist, it's worth it; if your passion shifts or the pursuit of this profession becomes not worth it for you, there is no shame in find something else that you will love and be happy doing.

To answer the second part of this question (but not really answer it): Every institution in the United States is set up to dramatically and disproportionately benefit certain demographics (being white, male, able-bodied, straight, and/or cis-gendered, etc). My advice is for people who can identify with one of those words: use your privilege to help those without that privilege. This can be done on an interpersonal basis (let someone know their behavior/comment/bias, etc, is not acceptable) and on an institutional basis (join or create groups at your institution/place of work to address these issues, especially for groups that you do not belong to). It's not enough for us to just act better ourselves, we need to be better allies to other underrepresented groups.

To actually answer the second part: If you are someone who belongs to an underrepresented group, I encourage you to find mentors and support people who do not behave in a way that implies that these identities seems like a detriment in your field.

9. What’s your favorite herp? Salamanders in general are really great; the green salamander, Aneides aeneus is probably my favorite, but I get pretty excited about all of them!

10.  Why are you an HL member? I've primarily been a member of HL and other herp societies for the reduced cost of going to annual meetings. The annual meetings for me have been great to create new connections and collaborations as well as to reconnect with friends that I do not get to see very often. I also enjoy the benefit of being able to publish for free or at reduced costs because I do not typically have grant or institutional money to support publication. Since starting my current position, being a member has allowed me to have access to journal articles because our library doesn't have subscriptions to many academic journals.

11. Is there anything else you would like to add?  Because this is to highlight diversity in Herpetology, I want to add that outright prejudice as well as unconscious bias related to gender or gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or disability needs to be discussed openly and addressed constructively in our field. That means even looking at myself on a regular basis and figuring out what my biases are so that I can work to improve myself in the hopes of encouraging other people, like me and unlike me, to contribute to science and herpetology, specifically. I hope we can all work together to increase inclusivity and diversity in the year(s) ahead.

12.  Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? This is a photo of me doing field work in Costa Rica while I was 6 months pregnant with my first child (2011).

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