Dr. Chris Jenkins is Chief Executive Officer of The Orianne Society. Chris has also worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Massachusetts, University of British Columbia, and National Geographic. He has worked on the conservation of reptiles and amphibians throughout North America and is currently expanding his work internationally. Chris' primary interests are in the ecology and conservation of snakes and managing nonprofit conservation organizations, but he has strong interests in the conservation biology of all reptiles and amphibians. He received a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Massachusetts in Wildlife Biology and Conservation and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Idaho State University. His dissertation focused on the effect of livestock grazing, invasive plants, and altered fire regimes on the reproductive ecology of Great Basin rattlesnakes. Chris' current projects include protection and management of Indigo Snakes and their habitats, understanding the factors responsible for the decline of Indigo Snakes, restoration of Gopher Tortoise and Indigo Snake populations, and the conservation of vipers including rattlesnakes of the Rocky Mountains, Appalachian populations of Timber Rattlesnakes, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, and Bushmasters. Chris founded and chairs the IUCN Viper Specialist Group and serves as co-chair on the Steering Committee for the Southeast Region of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Chris has contributed to multiple scientific papers and has written multiple book chapters including Modeling Snake Distribution and Habitat in the recently published book titled Snakes: Ecology and Conservation. Chris is currently writing a book titled, The Indigo Snake: A Complete Guide to their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation.
The staff of The Orianne Society at the 2014 Annual Meeting. Pictured from left to right is Kevin Stohlgren, Justin Wheeler, Dirk Stevenson, Heidi Hall, Chris Jenkins, Stephen Spear, Brannon Knight and Patty Li.
Dr. Stephen Spear received his B.S in Biology at the University of Richmond in 2001, his M.S. in Biology at Idaho State University in 2004, and his Ph.D. in Zoology at Washington State University in 2009. Both his master's and doctoral research focused on understanding how landscape configuration influenced the population genetic structure of amphibians. For his master's research, he studied tiger salamanders across the northern range of Yellowstone National Park to understand how cover type, topography and moisture gradients correlated with population connectivity and trends in population size. His dissertation research focused on the tailed frog, an endemic forest amphibian of the Pacific Northwest, and he investigated the relative effects timber harvest, large forest fires, and the Mount St. Helens eruption had on tailed frog gene flow and genetic diversity. In addition he has also worked on projects investigating giant salamander response to timber harvest treatments, and describing Tasmanian devil gene flow to predict how a deadly communicable disease might spread. Currently, he is working with researchers at Idaho State University, Clayton State University, and University of Idaho to use demographic, genetic, and modeling approaches to predict how energy development might affect the persistence of midget faded rattlesnake populations in southwest Wyoming. He is also working on projects investigating the response of hellbender populations to recent fragmentation due to hydrologic alteration and loss of forest cover. Steve lives in eastern Washington with his wife and an assortment of adopted reptiles and amphibians.
Brannon received an A.A.S in Wildlife Technology from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 2010. Throughout his college career, Brannon worked as a procurement forester with Ocmulgee Timber Company and Walker Forest Resources. Following graduation, Brannon received a bat conservation internship with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources where he worked establishing acoustic monitoring transects for bats throughout the state. In November of 2012 he enlisted in the Army National Guard as an infantryman and is still currently serving. Brannon started working with The Orianne Society in 2009 as a Land Management Technician. A year passed and his role evolved with the land program into the field operations coordinator. Presently he is currently the director of land management for the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve. He has received various fire training and participated extensively over the past 5 years in prescribe fires and is currently working towards his prescribed fire burn boss status recognized by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. He is expected to graduate Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the spring of 2014 with a B.A.S in Natural Resource Management. Brannon is particularly interested in restoring the natural plant communities of the coastal plain by using anthropogenic fire to mimic the once occurring natural process which historically shaped fire-dependent plant communities.
Dirk attended Southern Illinois University where he studied zoology (B.S.,1988). He has over 20 years of professional experience working as a field zoologist—primarily conducting field studies and surveys of reptiles and amphibians in the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. Beginning in 1996, Dirk has conducted intensive mark-recapture studies and distributional surveys of eastern indigo snakes throughout southern Georgia. Prior to his position with The Orianne Society, Dirk worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and The Nature Conservancy, and for the Department of Defense at Fort Stewart, Georgia. In addition to these positions, he has conducted status surveys for declining amphibian species through contracts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He has extensive experience surveying and translocating gopher tortoises, and is a long-time member of the Gopher Tortoise Council and the SSAR (Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles). Dirk has published a number of technical and popular articles relating to eastern indigo snakes, flatwoods salamanders, rare dragonflies, bark scorpions and other animals. Many of his photographs appeared in Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia (2008, University of Georgia Press). His popular articles have appeared in Wildlife Conservation, Alabama Wildlife, South Carolina Wildlife, Illinois Audubon, Herp Nation and Georgia Backroads.
Kevin Stohlgren grew up in central Missouri and received his B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri in 2007. He has worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation on a reptile and amphibian monitoring project in the Ozarks and has also worked at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Southwest Georgia. Kevin is currently working on his master's at the University of Georgia. His master's research focuses on the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on the distribution and abundance of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes on the coast of Georgia.
Chloe is an undergraduate student studying Wildlife Biology at the University of Georgia. She plans on pursuing a M.S. in Zoology or Conservation Biology following graduation. Chloe previously assisted Dr. Stephen Spear with environmental DNA (eDNA) lab work for Hellbenders and Mudpuppies and is currently working with The Orianne Society studying habitat modeling for Hellbenders in Georgia and North Carolina using eDNA techniques.
Tyler is a junior at the University of Georgia where he is studying Environmental Health Science and plans to pursue a master’s of science following graduation in 2017. He is currently working with Dr. Stephen Spear on an amphibian eDNA project testing for the presence of three imperiled salamanders in Fort Stewart, and he is also working with UGA's EHS department on an alligator microbiome project.
Katie Bentley is a senior at The University of Georgia studying Biology and Wildlife Science. After spending two years as a pre-med student, she decided to follow her dream of working with reptiles. Currently, she is working with The Orianne Society to study Timber Rattlesnake movements and habitat use in Whitehall Forest. Outside of work and class, Katie assists members of the Maerz Herpetology Lab, volunteers at the Georgia Museum of Natural History, and is co-president of the Herpetological Society at UGA.
Heidi Hall studied Fisheries and Wildlife Management at Hocking College in Ohio where she earned a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management. After a little globe-trekking, she continued her education at the University of Idaho, studying Wildlife Biology, earning a B.S. in Biology in 2003. Upon graduating, Heidi began her career as a consultant, working primarily with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act; studying various species ranging from sage grouse to salmon. Heidi has conducted and written numerous Biological Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and Habitat Assessments. Her current interests are determining and implementing effective ways to communicate the need for reptile and amphibian conservation, educating the public about the importance of these species, building strong partnerships with private, non-profit, and state and federal organizations, developing and implementing strategic fundraising campaigns, and organizing citizens to participate in necessary and useful research on reptile and amphibians that enhance The Orianne Society's conservation efforts. Heidi currently resides in the Southern Appalachian Mountains with her husband and two mutts; where they enjoy an active life full of bass fishing, fly fishing, and hiking.
Amanda Newsom is a Georgia native who moved to Athens in 2003 to attend the University of Georgia where she studied Journalism (ABJ), Anthropology (BA) and Management of Nonprofit Organizations (MA). While working toward her bachelor degrees, Amanda interned with local nonprofit organizations and enjoyed her time in archaeology field school. She also worked with various nonprofits as a graduate assistant and is passionate about utilizing her skills to promote worthy causes. Before coming to The Orianne Society, Amanda worked with animal welfare, childcare and public health organizations to coordinate their outreach efforts. In her spare time, Amanda loves to travel, volunteer to help animals and wildlife, and spend time with her family (including her two dogs and two cats).
Justin Wheeler is a recent transplant from Texas where he grew up enjoying the outdoors and playing sports. Justin is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a Bachelors of Science degree and also attended Stephen F. Austin State University studying Forestry. While in college Justin was a rock climbing instructor and took many climbing trips into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. After graduating Justin took a few months to paddle, ride and climb his way through the Western United States. Shortly thereafter Justin started a career in the heavy equipment industry learning many business practices and managing different facilities. Currently Justin lives in Athens Ga and is an active mountain biker.