Erica Santana is a biologist, naturalist, and writer living in Opelika, AL. Her scientific career began in 2001 as a freshman wildlife science major at Virginia Tech. In 2002 she had the good fortune to participate in a study abroad program where she spent a month studying the ecology and culture of South Africa. This experience opened her eyes to the amazing wonders of the natural world and allowed her to experience things she had only read about in books, but more importantly, made her realize that there was a whole world out there, just waiting to be explored!
Following that trip, she worked as an intern for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and got a real taste for what it means to be a biologist. Working as a biotech at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge she was part of a large-scale seabird restoration program aimed at monitoring and increasing populations of nesting seabirds on the coast of Maine. Her experience there and the relationships she formed set the stage for her career as a biologist. Upon graduation from VT, Erica took a job working for the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. She served as a research assistant in the Division of Mammals and learned the ropes of natural history collections management and participated in some morphometric studies.There she learned the importance of specimen collections to scientific research and came to appreciate the depth and breadth of natural history collections. In 2006 she spent 4 months living in the remote village of Elbeyli, Turkey where she worked as afield research assistant on a project aimed at studying the behavioral ecology of golden hamsters. Turkey was AMAZING and gave Erica travel fever in a huge way. Her work as a field assistant was fun, interesting, and rewarding, but she decided that she wanted to be the one designing the experiments, not just collecting the data, so she decided to go to graduate school.
In 2007 Erica began her graduate program at Auburn University where she designed and executed a project studying the food habits of coyotes and how they differ in areas of differential human development. Her coursework was heavily focused on human-wildlife interactions and the human dimensions of wildlife management. During her time at Auburn Erica taught undergraduate courses in mammalogy and organismal biology and developed a passion for teaching. She has given talks for various groups on urban wildlife, carnivore ecology, endangered species, wildlife capture and handling techniques, and human-wildlife interactions.
Erica is excited about being a part of Untamed Science! As an Ecogeek, she can pair her love for nature with her people skills in a dynamic way to get people excited about exploring the natural world and our place in it. Erica is trained as a field biologist, but grew up in an urban area and didn’t have much exposure to nature growing up. She is enthusiastic about bringing the message of science and conservation to America’s youth and inspiring the next generation of explorers. Her goal as a conservationist is to serve as a liaison between the scientific community and the general public in a way that fosters a mutual understanding and respect for each other, and a genuine desire to unite the two worlds in a creative, impactful way.
Currently, Erica is working in the Gulf of Mexico assisting restoration efforts in the wake of the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill.
View her blog.