This is me hanging out with a bullfrog statue at a nature center in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Herpetologist Highlight

  1. Name: Julia E. Earl
  2. Age: 36
  3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: sites.google.com/juliaeearl/  @Julia_E_Earl
  4. Where do you work? Louisiana Tech University
  5. Position: Assistant Professor
  6. How did you get there? As with many of us, it took many steps to get where I am today. I did an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies, after which I took a year off doing field jobs.  I did one job at a National Wildlife Refuge catching swans with rocket nets, and the second was with USGS’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which gave me the experience and many techniques to be a successful amphibian researcher.  I then did my masters and Ph.D. one after the other.  I did two different postdocs over five years that mainly focused on quantitative research and then got my current position
  7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I come from a privileged background, so my personal hardships were minimal.  I have struggled a few times being a woman in a male dominated field, but this occurred more when I moved into math biology research than in herpetology.  Dealing with this was so much easier, because I have had great mentors (particularly, Howard Whiteman and Ray Semlitsch) that were extremely professional and supportive.For me personally, the academic job market was the hardest part, which I went through while having a small child at home.  Applying for jobs in the current job market is like having a second full time job, and I was on the market for almost four years.  Part of my difficulty was likely because my research interests are fairly eclectic, so I don’t fit neatly into a job description, making it necessary for me to do 10 on-campus faculty interviews and many more phone interviews, each requiring extensive preparation.  I am an introverted person (not to say I don’t love people, because I do) and draw energy from working on my own and thinking, so meeting a new person every half hour for two days straight all the while projecting enthusiasm and confidence and keeping all the details of that position straight in my head was exhausting.  What was more exhausting was doing it all over again a month later, since interviews always seemed to come in groups.  I contemplated whether this much stress was worth it, but for me, contemplating a life where I didn’t get to pursue my own ideas and decide my research future was much more depressing, so I kept going and tried to keep a positive attitude and on the 10th on-campus interview, I got a job offer.  In retrospect, despite how hard all the interviews were, the job I got was in the top two best jobs for me out of all the interviews I did.
  8. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession?
  9. What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?  Find a good mentor.  People say this a lot.  It is really important though.  It’s helpful to find someone with similar research interests and whose personality you can work with, but it’s also really important to have a mentor that will stand up for you and really listen to your concerns and help you deal with them whether those concerns are academic, personal, societal, or economic.  Great scientists and great herpetologists come from all different backgrounds.  A good mentor for you may not share your background but should be willing to consider what it might be like to have a different background and how to help you succeed in a world where that background may leave you at a disadvantage.  This is crucial to even the playing field and to help people with great ideas to contribute them to their chosen discipline.  Graduate school (and beyond) is hard professionally and psychologically, but if you’re driven and love herps, you should never have to doubt whether you belong in herpetology.  If you want to know if someone is a good mentor, ask their students (as many as possible past and present) lots of different questions and ask follow up questions if something sounds off.  Being prepared and doing your background research in all different areas is the best way to set yourself up for success.What’s your favorite herp? It’s really hard to pick a favorite, so I’ll pick two.  I love bird-voiced treefrogs, because their call is so musical.  It’s enchanting to hear a whole chorus of them in the swamp, where they’re really difficult to see.  I also love greater sirens, because they’re just so surprising: an aquatic salamander with 2 legs and gills that can survive in the soil under a pond after all the water is gone.  What’s cooler than that?
  10. Why are you an HL member? I love the herp meetings and enjoy interacting with other people that are passionate about amphibians and reptiles!
  11. Is there anything else you would like to add? I’ve been to a lot of meetings.  The herp meetings are my favorite, because it’s so fun to learn new things about organisms you love.  Also, they’re a great size: enough people to find talks I’m really interested in but small enough that I can get to know people.  I hope to help the herpetology meetings continue to be fun but also to be more welcoming to all people, because diverse scientists have diverse ideas which is better for everyone!
  12. Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? This is me hanging out with a bullfrog statue at a nature center in Jefferson City, Missouri.
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