Dr. Laura Leibman

Author; Professor of English and Humanities

Reed College

My work as a humanist is indebted in many ways to the time spent helping my parents with biological fieldwork as a child, and my prior work in Animal Health Care and Conservation Biology.

My parents and stepparents are all biologists, and I spent many hours as a child helping collect snakes, lizards, and salamanders both in the tropics and at my father's field sites at Eagle Lake and Prairie Creek.  These early experiences not only taught me about research methods but also trained me to pay attention to details.  Noticing and responding quickly to a sudden, small shift in light often meant the difference between catching an animal or ending up empty handed.  My stepfather's research in the tropics also exposed me to other cultures and gave me a love of travel.  Haunted by places I did not understand, many years later I would find myself returning to some of these locations such as Panama and the Dutch West Indies to do my own historical work.  ​

As the child of biologists, I assumed I would someday work on animals as well, and indeed before I turned my gaze to culture, I worked with small animals and zoo animals, and worked briefly as a research assistant in conservation biology.  Working hands-on with animals taught me to watch closely for non-verbal communications, since ignoring a non-domesticated animal's body language could mean unnecessary stress for the animals and painful bites and scratches for me.  I remain fascinated by the importance of non-verbal language.

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