Where are they now? Middlebury Union High School – Matt Snider, 2005
Middlebury Union High School – Matthew Snider, 2005
Hometown, current residence, age: I am 30 years old. I grew up in East Middlebury but now reside in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Family: I would like to thank my parents, Steve and Suzanne Snider, as well as my sister, Sarah (also an MUHS alum), for supporting me in all of my endeavors, educational and otherwise, from the beginning.
What I am up to: I have just begun graduate school in a M.Sc. to Ph.D. program here at North Carolina State University and am a wildlife researcher by trade who focuses on large mammals in Africa.
How I got to where I am now: After graduating MUHS, I attended the University of Maryland where I earned a B.S. in Animal Science. I started at Maryland thinking that I wanted to become a veterinarian, but after I started volunteering at the National Zoo I came to realize that wildlife was something I had far more passion about. After graduation from Maryland I spent a year in South Africa volunteering on a project looking at lion/leopard/cheetah movement on a conservancy outside of Kruger National Park.
In 2011, I made the next step in my research career when I was hired as the project manager for a parasitology and behavior project studying Grant’s gazelles in Laikipia County, Kenya, established by a professor at the University of Georgia. After two years managing that project I moved down to the Maasai Mara to help the Mara Lion Project get off the ground before returning to northern Kenya to manage a hippo research project being run by a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My next assignment was an attachment to the Roosevelt Resurvey Project following in Teddy Roosevelt’s footsteps on is expedition up Mt. Kenya to resurvey all of the mammal species and see how the ecosystem has changed since his team trekked up and surveyed the animal diversity in 1909.
After five years in Kenya, I returned to the U.S. and have now started my graduate school studies here at North Carolina State University as part of Dr. Roland Kays’ lab.
In the photo with this piece, I am with a leopard named Tatu whom we have just put a radio collar on to observe his ranging behavior. This is part of the study that I am using for my grad school work.
Adults to whom I can attribute my current success: There is no single person I would say monolithically has contributed to my success but I have been fortunate to have a very close cohort of field ecologists whom I have met, worked with, and lived with at various field stations over the years who fill that role. Some of them are direct contemporaries in other sub-disciplines in the field (soil ecology, veterinary medicine, plant ecology, movement and behavior etc.). Along with my direct contemporaries, I have been lucky to have built relationships with a few more senior ecologists and conservationists who are a stage ahead of me professionally and have provided invaluable guidance in terms of where I would like to take my career. Within my own field I would attribute my success to the broad scope of this network of collaborators where everyone has provided a slightly different but valuable insight.
How my Vermont roots have influenced who I am today: Vermont has set me up phenomenally for wildlife research. The public education system I was fortunate to be a part of here is superior to those I have interacted with in other areas of the US. The focus on science in the curriculum, in particular, is a foundation I have drawn upon every day. From Mrs. Fraga’s field trips at Mary Hogan describing forest ecosystems in our backyards, to Mr. Bauer at MUMS showing that conservation of natural spaces is in the scientist’s (and wider society’s) best interests, to Mr. Scaramucci and Mrs. Atkins at MUHS teaching about the building blocks of these systems, my time in Middlebury prepared me well for my further education in and out of the classroom.
As a Vermonter, being able to recognize the beauty and value of the natural world around me helped build my fervor for further education surrounding ecology and conservation. Having grown up in a state where independent thinking and problem solving are cornerstones, the follow-through into adapting to a wide variety of challenges in the field was seamless. Changing a tire in a deep snowbank in Vermont is very similar to changing a tire in a sandy dry riverbed in South Africa, and the same common courtesy paired with a strong sense of community that underpins the Vermont small town experience is universal in the areas of East and Southern Africa where I have spent the majority of my time.
My memories of high school: I went through a lot of growth in high school and sometimes I felt like I struggled to know what my identity was. Fortunately, being part of a student community like MUHS, where everyone knows each other and generally gets along, provides a great place to grow and find yourself. No matter what your interests, there was always a place to belong in high school, and friendships formed there are still some of the strongest I have.
My advice for this year’s crop of graduating seniors: Graduating seniors are about to enter a time of massive transition. Free yourself to change and grown as new opportunities present themselves, whether it is moving into a career or starting another phase of your education. Spend time exploring, it may be years still before you settle on a path that you feel is the best fit for you. And that is OK. What is life without a little adventure?
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