Obsessio competitionis lucrum, non morbum est
Welcome to my world. One filled with an obsession for venom. A passion I use as my fuel for scientific discovery. It is a life spent living and working with snakes. Lots of very, very toxic snakes and a myriad of other venomous creatures. Everything from the Malaysian king cobra to deadly scorpions. I am passionate about venomous animals, in all their glorious shapes and sizes. When asked what it’s like to live my childhood dream of working with these animals I like to quote from Calvin & Hobbes “‘I am obeying the inscrutable exhortations of my inner-most soul, and my mandate also includes weird bugs’.
I graduated from the Portland State University Honours Program with a dual degree in Molecular Biology (BSc) and Scientific Philosophy (BA), with a minor in Psychology (BA) in 1995. I then completed a PhD from the University of Queensland in 2002 on the toxic natriuretic peptides present in taipan venoms, I am now an associate professor at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland where I am group leader of the Venom Evolution Laboratory.
I have conducted field research in over 40 countries, from Norway to Antarctica and all points in between ranging from the Amazon basin to the Sindh desert of Pakistan. The field work is hazardous and things don't always go according to plan. My personal tally is 27 snake bites, three stingray envenomations, a near-fatal scorpion sting while deep in the Amazon jungle, over 400 stitches (about a quarter of which I put in myself), 24 broken bones (including breaking my back on 2 separate occasions, the first time resulting in 4 months in the hospital and having to relearn how to walk, 3 vertebrate are now made of metal and an inoperable fourth one remains 1/3 partially crushed) and 3 concussions. But the perseverance in the scientific quests in the face of such obstacles has led to me being inducted into the elite adventurer society The Explorers Club.
My papers have been published in leading scientific journals such as Nature. In the popular press I have been featured nearly 100 documentaries on channels such as Animal Planet, BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic TV and written about in Wired, Cosmos, National Geographic in addition to numerous newspapers.
Both of these books are infused with my passion for learning more about these toxic creatures I find so amazing.