Dillon Jones ’18 served as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador with a passion for conservation biology. Dillon graduates this December as an Undergraduate Research Scholar with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and a minor in Psychology, but to characterize him by his academic credentials alone is to miss much of the man.
After dropping out of high school and home-schooling himself, Dillon ran away from home and lived in an abandoned house for several months. Only a week before starting his freshman year at Texas A&M, the house was broken into and all of Dillon’s worldly belongings were stolen, leaving Dillon to arrive in Aggieland with only the clothes on his back. From that rocky start Dillon has channeled perseverance, intellectual passion, and an uncommon intellect to emerge as a leader on campus and a voice for conservation biology that is heard nationwide if not world-wide as the “Contemporary Conservationist”.
As a freshman Dillon worked in the lab of Dr. David Baumgardner in the Department of Biology where he cared for the reptiles and amphibians that had always captured his imagination. As a student worker in LAUNCH Dillon was exposed to the wide variety of undergraduate research opportunities and programs that LAUNCH represents. Through his involvement as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Undergraduate Research Scholar, Dillon has taken advantage of an extraordinary range of opportunities to further his professional and intellectual growth. An interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr. Kimberly Kattari in the Department of Performance Studies examined whether factors commonly used to analyze music could also be used to characterize animal sounds. This study was chosen for publication in Volume 8 of Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. A project in his home department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences led to an Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis with Dr. Lee Fitzgerald that combined citizen science and Dillon’s own studies to paint a picture of the reptiles and amphibians in the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary. An internship at the T.R.E.E.S. Research Station took Dillon to Belize where he spent a summer participating in multiple projects ranging from the rearing, analysis, and habitat preference of multiple amphibians to radio-tracking turtles through flooded rivers. In the meantime Dillon has served as President of two student organizations and been recognized as the Wildlife and Fisheries Outstanding Senior for 2018.
Dillon has documented his adventures, thoughts, and educational outreach via an Instagram account with over ten thousand followers and a website linked to a blog and Facebook page as the Contemporary Conservationist. So sophisticated and scientifically mature are these public-facing media outlets that an interviewer for BeProvided Conservation Radio was astounded to hear that Dillon was not an established full-time professional, but in fact had yet to graduate from college! Worry not, continued development of his knowledge and further exploration of core ecological concepts as they relate to his favorite reptiles and amphibians is at the top of Dillon’s list in the form of graduate school and a PhD. Dillon’s plan for a lifetime of “learning, doing, and teaching” is well on its way.