A life-changing experience studying iguanas in the Bahamas

Dr. Chuck Knapp and College of the Bahamas student Shannan Yates celebrate the sighting of an Exuma Cays Rock Iguana. (Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium)

Guest post by Shannan Yates, a student at The College of the Bahamas, who recently attended one of Shedd Aquarium’s field research trips to Andros Island in The Bahamas.

In the spring of 2014, I had the opportunity of a lifetime that changed me both professionally and personally.

At a conference on Bahamian natural history, I met Shedd Aquarium’s Dr. Chuck Knapp, who oversees the conservation research program at Shedd and has spent decades researching rock iguanas in The Bahamas. At the time, I had been struggling with the decision of attending medical school. Would I make a difference working in a ‘normal career’, as in a sterile hospital wearing a white lab coat, be any different than working as a field researcher?

For me, Dr. Chuck helped to provide that answer. Without thinking twice, I accepted his invitation to accompany him on a citizen science iguana research exhibition to the Exuma Cays. My experience on that expedition–adjusting to the harsh weather and elements – proved to me that the white lab coat in some hospital was not going to be my career path. I found an unexplainable love for field research and the Exuma Cays Rock Iguana (Cyclura cychlura figgisi), in an experience that I will never forget.

College of the Bahamas student Shannan Yates Shannon fills blood vials after a blood extraction, and performs a blood smear on a slide for future parasite analyses. (Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium)

Dr. Knapp again invited me to join him on Shedd’s iguana research expedition to Andros Island to study its endemic iguana (Cyclura cychlura cychlura). Arriving on Andros – with its finicky weather and unforgiving flora and fauna- was —> Read More