“If a woman loves a crocodile, she takes on its character.” Independence, strength, and intelligence may be some of the characteristics that this ancient Egyptian proverb is referring to, and qualities that have shaped my character since I was a young girl. At an age when most girls were playing with dolls, I was developing my knowledge of the world’s top predators. Not a day went by that I wasn’t imaging my future career as a leading apex predator scientist, broadening the world’s knowledge and respect for these magnificent creatures. After years of self-education on the world’s predators, I developed a great passion for understanding the scientific and evolutionary background of one of the oldest lineages of predators on our planet- the crocodile.
Ok- right now you are thinking I must be from Louisiana or Florida, or somewhere in Australia. You are wrong!!!! I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles- not even remotely close to the natural habitat of these archaic reptilians. I played soccer, and was part of the San Gabriel Twirlers, obtaining national and international baton twirling titles. I even got crowned Princess of my city, as well as Winter Ball Queen. So how did a girl like me get into crocodilians? I blame my father. I was five years old, and I remember I was getting excited to receive a present, hoping it would be a Barbie Doll or a My Little Pony. A very flat package. I opened it up and there were three books: a book on the American Civil War, World War II and Sharks. I read those books over and over again, especially the one on sharks. I fell in love with sharks, especially the Great White. To this day I dream of doing some type of research on the Great White- they are actually the reason why I fell in love with apex predators and they willl always have a special place in my heart. To this day, usual gifts from my dad are books as the continual quest for knowledge should be neverending. So my quest to an unknown frontier, and to always strive to be on top is a result of my father, and I thank him for this.
So, how am I able to deal with these big, rough, “scary” predators??? I blame my brother. I had the typical big brother who would chase me around the house to practice his WWF Ultimate Warrior moves on me. I couldn’t play or watch “girly” toys or movies. I grew up watching Star Wars and Rocky. My brother instilled in me “No pain- no pain!!!!!” I grew up with “Eye of the Tiger” playing in my head before a soccer game or big event. I grew up tough, which came in handy when a crocodile got a taste of my hand. The idea of “No pain” came in handy at that moment, and I thank my brother.
Now many people would see a crocodile or alligator and think it is scary and dangerous, and never even think about protecting it, or how to go about to teach others how to care for it. But I learned how to stand my ground, communicate, and teach others the wonders and beauty of crocodilians, and I blame my mother for this. Tagging along with her at the schools she taught or presided as principle, I learned how to effectively communicate with people from different backgrounds, ages, and difficult circumstances. So I believe my ability to be able to communicate to people comes from my mother, and I thank her for that.
So, how did I get to where I am now? Its because one day I came to realize that scientific research and teaching were paramount in furthering the field of crocodilian biology, as well as providing the knowledge needed to aid in the conservation of the eighteen out of twenty-three endangered species of crocodilians that I truly love. And maybe its just in my blood to do something that involves caring for all creatures, being a steward for the Earth, or doing some research that entails medicine. My father’s lineage is Apache, a family lineage that consists of medicine men and women (Claim to Fame: My great-great grandmother was the curandera (medicine woman) for Pancho Villa and his men). In a sense, maybe I was just born to do this….