Featuring our Graduating Seniors: Tucker Walton



This is the fourth in a series featuring the recent OU graduates who are members of the Siler Lab.  In their own words, they will highlight the experiences they had with us as students, volunteers and/or employees.  Begin the series here with Rachel Flanagan.

I joined the Siler Lab in the fall of 2014 as a senior at OU. Before I started volunteering at Sam Noble, I expected my time in a lab to be something I could put on a resumé. However, working in the Siler Lab was one of the defining experiences of my college career. It left me with skills that I can apply to my future career and also connected me with a community that will be there to help me reach my goals.

Volunteering in the lab involved a great deal of work as well as fun. In the beginning I spent about a month going through Cam’s publications and summarizing them for public viewing. Having to read through these papers allowed me to really appreciate the impact that Cam has already had within the scientific community and reassured me that I had joined the right group of people. After that I began working with Matt DeRuyter on a project that he had started at the beginning of the semester. Matt had compiled a list of 89 scientific papers which described new species of snakes, and he and I worked into the next semester gathering data on the characters described in these papers. In April of this year I presented our findings in front of other biology students and faculty at Undergraduate Research Day. This project gave me experience with collecting, organizing, and analyzing large amounts of data – skills which I’m guaranteed to need in the coming years. We are also hoping to get our research published when we submit a draft to a herpetology journal in the fall.

Not all of my time with the herp lab was spent inside, and I think I speak for most of us when I say that the best part of herpetology is “herping.” I looked forward to each time we planned on going out into the field to catch more specimens. Herping means scratches, mosquito bites, and getting shoes (and tires) stuck in mud. It also means being immersed in nature with people you can laugh with and learn from. Each trip to the field was a reminder of why I love biology and why I keep coming back to the Siler Lab. After each herping trip we had to process the animals we caught. I learned how to euthanize specimens, take liver samples, swab for infectious diseases, and preserve them using formalin.

I’m currently looking for job as a research assistant in a lab in the Norman area, and the skills I learned while working in the Siler Lab have definitely prepared me for such a position. Eventually I would like to pursue a graduate degree in conservation biology and perform research of my own. Having Cam and the rest of the lab to look up to has been a wonderful opportunity, and I’d like to thank the entire lab for all of these great experiences!


Continue reading more in this series here.