My job: Champion of the Slimy Underdogs
Real title: Communications Specialist
Education: Master’s in journalism from Northwestern University
How I help save sallies: As a salamander storyteller, I’m charged with telling the most compelling stories about these amazing species and letting people know not only why they should want to protect salamander biodiversity, but what they can do to help. This is an important job because the willingness of a society to conserve a species is tied directly to whether that society values the species and feels a connection to it. But it’s impossible to feel connected to a species—or even an ecosystem of which you’re part—if you don’t know much about it.
Best salamander story: When the Japanese giant salamander breeding center opened at the National Zoo, we had a big media event that involved the Japanese ambassador. As part of that, we asked elementary school children at Japanese immersion schools to create salamander artwork of their choice to present to the ambassador. The kids came in with drawings, paintings and even sculpture. I remember one parent writing to express how much work her son had put into the sculpture and how he was so excited to learn about the salamander that he was creating. I remember how I felt as a kid catching my first salamanders and frogs and how that magic has always stayed with me—it was inspiring to see that love blossom in a future conservationist!