Wildlife Research: Travis Thomas

Travis Thomas traps turtles that tip the scale at more than 100 pounds.

travis thomas holding a turtle, caption below

Travis Thomas carries an alligator snapping turtle trapped in the Suwannee River.

Travis M. Thomas
Wildlife Research: Reptile and Amphibian Ecology
Gainesville, FL

B.S. – Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

Four years with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

What are you working on now?
Status, distribution and spatial ecology of the alligator snapping turtle in the Suwannee River.

How is this information beneficial?
This project will aid the formulation of an effective management strategy for alligator snapping turtles in Florida by addressing data gaps in basic population biology.

What is your typical work day like?
It really depends. I’m also a graduate student at the University of Florida, so I have responsibilities like serving as a teaching assistant for undergraduate classes. I also take upper-level graduate courses, myself. Basically, I could be on the river trapping or tracking alligator snapping turtles or in a classroom teaching or being taught.  

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
I haven’t achieved what I would call a great career accomplishment yet, but I feel this project, at its completion, will be a great addition to the scientific understanding of alligator snapping turtles.

What are some of your biggest challenges?
Dealing with multiple large (more than 100 pounds) alligator snapping turtles at once in a small jon boat. Also, there’s always unpredictable river conditions that make sampling difficult at times.

What do you like most about your career?
Being on the river.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?
No. When I was younger, I was very interested in being a fireman or an archaeologist.

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?
I’m a really big flight enthusiast, so I would be piloting passenger jets.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
Be patient and jump on opportunities when they come along.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I don’t really have much free time, but when I do, I like watching the Florida Gators athletic teams.

FWC Facts:
An octopus can change its shape and color to blend in with its surroundings.

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