Coleman Sheehy, the herpetology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History, explains his early childhood interest in amphibians and reptiles, and the career path that led him to the museum.
Interview and videos produced by Gage Chancey for Explore Research at the University of Florida.
Coleman Sheehy: I’ve been interested in this sort of topic my entire life, so since I was a kid as far as I can — as early as I can remember — I’ve been fascinated with reptiles and amphibians, especially snakes have been my focus. But I’ve been interested in natural history in general as far as I can remember and it wasn’t until after high school that I really was able to refine my interests and focus them into a career. And that happened by some travel opportunity when I decided I wanted to see these reptiles and amphibians in the wild.
I decided to join a trip to Madagascar and that’s where I met up with some professional herpetologists for the very first time, really, and saw them describing, you know, these really rare, sometimes new species of reptiles and amphibians and I asked, “How are you doing this?” And they said, “well typically you get a Ph.D., you go into an academic field, usually at a university or a museum,” and I thought, that’s what I need to do.
So when I came back from that I was focused then on going back to school, finishing my bachelor’s degree at the time, and then continuing on to get a Ph.D. and hopefully to get a job in academia or a museum. And so that’s what I decided to do and that’s how I ended up here.
Learn more about the Herpetology collection at the Florida Museum.