Professor publishes field guide

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Professor publishes field guide

Photo courtesy by Kimberly Doughty

Photo courtesy by Kimberly Doughty

Photo courtesy by Kimberly Doughty

Photo courtesy by Kimberly Doughty

Olivia Barfield, [email protected]

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When John Carr was first approached about creating a book, he wasn’t sure about the idea. But when he realized that a field guide of Louisiana critters would be useful to students and laymen alike, he jumped at the opportunity.

For Carr, a professor of biology who specializes in herpetology, working on a book that would help students would feed a cycle of new discoveries, because he learns with his students.

“The whole time I’ve been here in the state, I am always doing things with students. What I’ve learned about the…state amphibians and reptiles here has come from working with students side by side,” he said.

After four years of gathering information, maps and photos, on April 10 “Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana,” was released. The book is a field guide of species native to Louisiana and adjacent areas in other states and was published by LSU Press. Carr wrote the book with Jeff Bounty, a herpetologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Although the book isn’t available on campus yet, Carr said he hopes it can help his future students.

At a book signing event, Carr presented some research he had done on his favorite reptile the soft-shelled turtle. They’ve been his favorites since “forever.”

Carr has been working with turtles for almost 40 years. He said it’s a fascination that started when he was a teenager and, so far, he hasn’t gotten rid of.

“You might think it’s kind of funny somebody’s life work is focused on this,” he said at his book signing, “but everybody’s got to do something. Everybody’s got their niche.”

He considers himself lucky for being able to slide into this niche, because he gets to research what he wants to most of the time.

Presley McClung, a junior biology major, first took a class of Carr’s during her sophomore year. Now she takes him for herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. She said he is an excellent teacher who really comes alive when he teaches herpetology.

“He is so passionate about that class, and [about] teaching us more about turtles,” she said.

Ethan Burke, a graduate student who also takes Carr for herpetology, said that it is obvious that critters are Carr’s passion.

“He has been quite an inspiration! ULM should be proud to have such a professor of his caliber,” he said.

Originally from the Houston area, Carr never expected to end up in Louisiana. It was the job opportunity that allowed him to research that called him here. Especially because, as he puts it, there are a rich variety of turtles in Louisiana, and the rest of the wildlife is very similar to that of the area he grew up in.

Making a book is difficult, said Carr, who found time to work on it during school breaks. He said he is thankful for all the photographers who contributed, and the the collections of the ULM Museum of Natural History. Even though this is a field guide, Carr said, it is based on “scholarship (and) knowledge of the animals…museum records are fundamental to those things.”

Although he said it was tougher than he thought it would be, he said he has a few ideas for a new book project.