We had the good fortune of connecting with Sam Kieschnick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sam, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
I’ve been quite fortunate to spend a lot of time outdoors. Granted, we exist in an online culture with emails and meetings, but I dedicate time each and every day to going outside. This is a habit that I carve out daily time to pursue. The wonderful thing about nature is that it’s always full of surprises! Daily I am learning new things as I explore the outdoors.
As an urban wildlife biologist, I get to study urban biodiversity — the plants and animals that live with us in the urban ecosystem. Fortunately, in the midst of pretty extensive urbanization, we have maintained some spots as “green spaces.” This includes parks, roadsides, and even little green patches around our homes. These spots are crucial refuges for an inordinate amount of critters here in Dallas/Fort Worth. One of the tools that I use to document this biodiversity is iNaturalist, an app, database, network, and community. With iNaturalist, I can share my findings with the public and with the public land managers. I like to show that not only is there biodiversity, but also there is a constituency of naturalists that seek out areas to engage with nature.
One of the professional goals that I achieve by going outdoors is learning the names of all the organisms that I interact with. That continual exploration has created a regional expert in the flora and fauna of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Not only that, but I have a ton of fun just being outside looking at bugs!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’d argue that I have one of the coolest jobs that exist. I’m an urban wildlife biologist, so I study urban biodiversity and how people and wildlife interact. My path hasn’t been completely straight and narrow, but I’ve been lucky to have many jobs all related to my degree. I achieved my masters degree from Tarleton State University studying the genetics of pocket gophers. I then taught zoology, botany, and general biology at Weatherford College. After that, I worked as a botanist at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, then as a science interpreter at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and as a naturalist at the Fort Worth Nature Center. I then got some municipality experience as a nature educator with the City of Mansfield. Now, I am one of the urban wildlife biologists with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Each of my jobs have trained me for my next role, and I need to be pinched daily to make sure I’m not dreaming — it’s been a great career so far!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If you’re a friend of mine, well, I hope you like going outside! I would take a friend or a stranger to some of the cool wild places in Dallas/Fort Worth. Tandy Hills Natural Area, the Fort Worth Nature Center, Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area, Trinity River Audubon Center, SouthWest Nature Preserve, Village Creek Drying Beds, and about 20 other parks in the DFW area. I don’t think we’d get much time to go out to eat, so bring a sack lunch!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been extraordinarily lucky to work alongside some tremendous organizations in Dallas/Fort Worth. I tend to work the closest with the Texas Master Naturalists. There are several chapters in the DFW area. These are dedicated and trained volunteers that devote themselves to providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.