Featured Colleague – Steve Myers

By Stephanie McMillen

Steve Myers, professor of biology on the East Campus, has found, after 25 years of teaching at Valencia, that some of his most rewarding experiences have been traveling abroad with students.

“Steve has been leading study abroad programs for many years now,” said Jennifer Robertson, director of study abroad and global experiences. “His students return with a passion for science that could not be achieved in a regular classroom.”

He first began taking students on self-designed field courses 15 years ago. Later these field courses turned into full-scale study abroad trips, and to date, Steve has taken his students on a total of 24 trips to India and Guyana to study and learn together.

“My first country was Venezuela and later came Guyana and India,” Steve said. He and his students have explored such places as the exotic and remote rainforest interior of Guyana, and trekked across south India by train only to find themselves caught in one of the country’s August monsoons.

On a typical trip, students learn basic science skills in field work methodology, including field observations, note taking, data collection, and taxonomic identification of important species. This has included observing Leatherback sea turtles (the largest turtles in the world) nesting on the remote beaches of Guyana, and radio tagging snakes in west India – a process used by biologists to follow the movements of  snakes.

Furthermore, students have the opportunity to meet and work with some of the world’s finest biologists, conservationists and herpetologists.

Studying abroad with Steve is more than just a photo opportunity. Students gear up for “the wild” where they get up close and personal with some of the world’s most deadly species, like the King Cobra of the Western Ghats in India. “The Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot and contains many species of animals and plants found nowhere else on the planet,” Steve added.

In addition to gaining skills they can take with them to the workforce, students are immersed into cultures beyond their own – and sometimes beyond their imaginations.

In Guyana, they live in Amerindian villages, and learn the traditional ways of the indigenous people such as gathering food, erecting shelters, and transforming plants into medicines. In India, students take up residence at the renowned Madras Crocodile Bank, where they not only learn about reptile conservation, but “fall in love with [Indian] food,” Steve says. “All of these experiences are life changing.”

“I see how study abroad has really empowered our students,” Steve explained. Not every student has the opportunity to watch the legendary Irula people of India track and capture deadly snakes to extract venom that will be used to produce anti-venom.

Steve’s “obsession” with plants and animals started at a young age and resulted in two biological sciences degrees – a bachelor’s from Florida State University and a master’s from the University of Central Florida.

“I have worked in the Herpetology Department at the Fort Worth Zoo, Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, and at the University of Texas Health Science at Dallas,” Steve shared.

He currently serves as the lead faculty member who oversees the greenhouse on East campus, where “we maintain a collection of over 300 species of plants from all over the world,” Steve explained.

As Steve continues to push his students beyond the boundaries of Valencia and our country, he reveals that they are his inspiration to go farther and to continue learning about our planet.

Know someone doing great work at the college? Send your recommendation to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and he or she may our next featured colleague.

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