Nomination Statement for Dr. Steve Johnson, Recipient of the Florida Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s 2018 Paul Moler Herpetological Conservation Award
I would like to nominate Dr. Steve Johnson of the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation for the FLTWS Paul Moler Herpetological Conservation Award for 2018. I’ve known Steve for over 5 years and cannot think of a more deserving person for this award. Dr. Johnson was on my MS committee and is co-chair of my Ph.D. committee. I’ve spent time with him in the field and served as a Teaching Assistant in his Wildlife of Florida Lab at UF. Dr. Johnson holds a teaching and extension appointment at UF, so his job is to educate students and members of the public about wildlife. Steve is a very well-rounded biologist, and he has contributed a lot to the conservation and management of reptiles and amphibians. Steve has done a great deal of educating about invasive species and their impacts and management in Florida. He and his students have produced more than 50 outreach publications on a diversity of wildlife species and issues. Focal species of these documents include: venomous and non-venomous snakes, gopher frog, Cuban treefrog, cane toad, feral cat, and other invasive species. Topics his outreach documents address include: choosing the right pet, responsible pet ownership, dealing with nuisance wildlife, and venomous snake education and safety. Several of these documents consistently rank among the 10 most popular outreach documents within UF IFAS each year. For example, his publication “Black Snakes”: Identification and Ecology has been downloaded ~50,000 times a year for the past 4 years. He has also published two popular ID decks available through UF; one on Florida frogs and another on Florida snakes. An excellent example of the breadth of Dr. Johnson’s wildlife outreach impacts is his extremely popular UF Wildlife website. This website has information on a diversity of native and introduced species, and is the “go-to” source of information about Cuban treefrogs in Florida. It also hosts online guides for Florida’s snakes and frogs. Since its first full year of availability in 2007, the number of unique visits each year has jumped from ~16,000 to an astounding ~825,000 hits in 2016. Dr. Johnson has delivered dozens of workshops and training sessions to wildlife professionals, County Extension agents, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and others. In addition to his role educating the Florida public, Steve has also educated countless students at UF. He has chaired the committees of 12 MS students, 4 Ph.D. students, and served on the committee of an additional 19 graduate students. And he has educated thousands of undergraduate students at UF in courses such as Wildlife of Florida, Conservation of Amphibians & Reptiles, Invasion Ecology of Amphibians and Reptiles, Natural Resource Ecology, and his study abroad program in Australia. Dr. Johnson’s students speak very highly of him and scores of his teaching evaluations consistently exceed those of his colleagues at UF. “Dr. J” is known by his students as a highly engaging and enthusiastic teacher, as is evident from a student comment on a recent evaluation in his Wildlife of Florida course: “Dr. J is the best. He is truly a fantastic professor - passionate, knowledgeable, a great teacher, respectful of students, makes the classroom a fun and engaging place. I learned so much about native FL wildlife, I actually feel confident about IDing animals now. Very valuable class for all wildlife/enviro-related majors. Very grateful for the field trips he's taken us on, which he didn't have to do - these were all very fun, interactive, and helped me become a better naturalist. Overall, I couldn't have more positive things to say about this professor or class - it really made this semester awesome!”
Thank you for taking to time to read my nomination. Dr. Johnson is a highly respected and valued colleague at UF, and he has numerous colleagues, collaborators, and friends at other universities and colleges and in local, state, and federal agencies in Florida and beyond. He has literally educated tens of thousands of people in Florida about the state’s native and non-native wildlife and has made a lasting impact on the lives of many UF students through his role as an instructor at UF. He is an outstanding candidate for the FLTWS 2018 Paul Moler Herpetological Conservation Award.