MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Kansas lost a remarkable and gifted person this year with the death of Joe Collins. I knew Joe as Kansas's foremost frog and snake guy, the author of Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles in Kansas. But he was much more than that. Amazingly, he created an illustrious scientific career for himself without ever graduating from college. He skipped the whole credential thing and simply started doing science. He published the first of his scientific papers when he was just 19; he was later to author over 300 articles and 28 books and co-author the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. In 1996, the governor of Kansas proclaimed Joe Collins "Kansas Wildlife Author Laureate."
Joe's career is an object lesson to young people who think they have to choose a boring field because it pays well and is therefore "practical." Sometimes just doubling down on what you love can be the most practical thing of all!
Joe's love of wildlife started early. As a little boy in Ohio, he spent as much time as he could with turtles, reptiles, and amphibians. Every day seemed filled with wonders as he learned more and more about his shelled, scaly, and moist-skinned friends. It hurt him, therefore, when he noticed something horrible about his own species: Behind the wheel, some people swerved to hit turtles on the road. Little Joe devised an ingenious revenge. He put the road-killed turtles back together but filled the shells