Whether she’s in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo or the city parks of Pittsburgh, tropical ecologist Jennifer Sheridan is living her best life, and she wants young people to have the same opportunity. Where to start? Just pick up a frog.
Jennifer Sheridan always knew she wanted to work with animals. But it wasn’t until she was standing in a pond in northeast Illinois, up to her waist in water, that she knew those animals would be amphibians.
Sheridan was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago at the time, and she’d signed on as a field assistant with a graduate student who was researching amphibians in the forest preserves surrounding the city. Each day, they would set small traps that anglers use to catch bait minnows to sample the biodiversity found just a few miles away from the bustle of the Windy City.
“Then we’d go back the next day and open them up, and they were just full of giant tadpoles and blue spotted salamanders,” says Sheridan. “And I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid to play with animals.’”