Dr. Stephanie Schuttler

The Fancy Scientist

Dr. Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years in the field. She started the “Fancy Scientist” blog to share her love of animals, conservation, and science to inspire and connect people to nature. Stephanie grew up in Buffalo, NY. taught by her parents to love animals.

Her parents were not outdoors people, on camping trips, they would just stay in a nearby motel. She loved to go to Allegheny State Park[1] and look for animals. She developed an innate curiosity. What were they thinking? What were they doing? Animal behavior is still her favorite aspect of research, and it all started with common species. At 11 years old Stephanie applied for student ambassador through the People-to-People program in Australia and New Zealand. She spent three weeks there and got to experience completely new ways of life.

During high school, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism[2]. This is something that has impacted me my whole life. I’ve always felt slow physically, but later also mentally at times, and was prone to depression. For college, she lived at home and made good grades. Stephanie decided to try acting and lived with her brother in New York City taking acting classes. Her brother talked her into studying abroad.

She chose to try the School for Field Studies in Kenya (SFS) on wildlife management. That adventure made her realize a career in wildlife biology. In her career, she worked for the Bureau of Land Management in St. George, Utah updating water catchment[3] maps. She would also have a job tracking bats in the northern Grand Canyon. At Disney World, she had one of her favorite jobs at the Wildlife Tracking Center in Animal Kingdom, where her main job was monitoring the hormones of the animals. Projects included surveying the wildlife on undeveloped land within Disney and collecting alligator vocalizations. She went back to Kenya to collaborate with Dr. Moses Okello’s[4] research on tourist preferences for wildlife.

She then started her Ph.D. at the University of Missouri studying African forest elephants. She had a stressful time as her mother had cancer and she wanted to get married so her mother would be able to attend. Stephanie got the motivation to keep going through working with kids. She participated in a National Science Foundation program called GK-12, where she worked with teachers to co-create lesson plans for their classrooms based on her own research.

I spent the next few years with most of my time collecting data in Gabon and running genetic analyses on forest elephant dung samples in the lab. In Lope National Park, I observed elephant groups, identified individuals, and tried to collect fresh dung from them (“How to Tell Individual Elephants Apart“). From group observations, I made network models of the elephants and overlaid their genetic information to see if related individuals were more likely to be group members (“Secretive Forest Elephant Friendships“). I also organized transects across the park, looking for as much dung as possible, to see if dung found closer together was from more closely related individuals (“Elephant Dung is the Easiest Way to Get DNA“). My field work brought me many amazing adventures including traveling by canoe to the extreme north of the Republic of Congo, getting surrounded by hundreds of mandrills, and even having an elephant trying to break into my room (“The Night African Forest Elephants Broke Into My Room“).

Stephanie Schuttler – from her website

In December of 2012 she graduated with her Ph. D. Her mom lost the battle with cancer the next year. Stephanie applied for a postdoc on the eMammal project[5], where my job would be working with teachers to implement camera traps into their classrooms for kids to collect data for real science.

She has a Podcast called “Fancy Scientist” and wrote the book “GETTING A JOB IN WILDLIFE BIOLOGY: What It’s Like and What You Need to Know”. She has also written a book for children called “My First Book of Earth: All About Our Planet for Kids!”

Getting a Job in Wildlife Biology will clear up your confusion about careers, alleviating your worries and anxiety. You’ll learn what career options are available in wildlife biology and tangential fields, how to make yourself competitive for jobs, and the exact steps I took to become a wildlife biologist.

Stephanie Schuttler

I recently saw her on “The Proof is Out There” and the “Expedition X” TV shows. She used her dog to track and find some wild cat scat in the episode “Ozark Howler”. It successfully found some that turned out to be a bobcat.

  1. Allegany State Park is a state park in western New York State, located in Cattaraugus County just north of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. The park is divided into two sections: The Red House Area and the Quaker Run Area. It lies within the Allegheny Highlands forests ecoregion. The Red House Area is the northeastern half of Allegany State Park. The Red House area’s attractions include Stone Tower, the Summit Fire Tower, Red House Lake, Bridal Falls, and the Art Roscoe Ski Area. This section also contains five miles of paved bike trails and 130 campsites. The Red House area is the location of the Administration Building for the park. The Quaker area is the southwestern section of the park. Its attractions include Quaker Lake, the Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower, hiking trails, Science lake, Bear Caves, Thunder Rocks, the Quaker Amphitheater, and several campsites. The Cain Hollow campground is located on the Quaker side of the park. Allegany State Park was named a top “Amazing Spot” in the nation in 2007. It has also been referred to as “the wilderness playground of Western New York.” [Back]
  2. Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the endocrine system in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause a number of symptoms, such as the poor ability to tolerate cold, a feeling of tiredness, constipation, slow heart rate, depression, and weight gain. Occasionally there may be swelling of the front part of the neck due to goiter. Untreated cases of hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to delays in growth and intellectual development in the baby or congenital iodine deficiency syndrome. [Back]
  3. A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from rain runoff, snowmelt, hail, sleet, and nearby streams that run downslope towards the shared outlet, as well as the groundwater underneath the earth’s surface. Drainage basins connect to other drainage basins at lower elevations in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basins, which in turn drain into another common outlet. Other terms for drainage basin are catchment area, catchment basin, drainage area, river basin, water basin, and impluvium. In North America, the term watershed is commonly used to mean a drainage basin, though, in other English-speaking countries, it is used only in its original sense, that of a drainage divide. In a closed drainage basin or endorheic basin, the water converges to a single point inside the basin, known as a sink, which may be a permanent lake, a dry lake, or a point where surface water is lost underground. The drainage basin acts as a funnel by collecting all the water within the area covered by the basin and channeling it to a single point. Each drainage basin is separated topographically from adjacent basins by a perimeter, the drainage divide, making up a succession of higher geographical features (such as a ridge, hill, or mountains) forming a barrier. Drainage basins are similar but not identical to hydrologic units, which are drainage areas delineated so as to nest into a multi-level hierarchical drainage system. Hydrologic units are defined to allow multiple inlets, outlets, or sinks. In a strict sense, all drainage basins are hydrologic units but not all hydrologic units are drainage basins. [Back]
  4. Moses Makonjio Okello (Ph.D.) is a Professor of Tourism and Wildlife Management and Director of The School for Field Studies Center for Water and Wildlife Studies, Kenya. He studied at Moi University in Kenya (B.Sc) 1987 – 1990; the University of Idaho, USA (M.Sc), 1991 – 1993; and the University of Alberta in Edmonton CANADA (Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology and Management), 1993 – 1996. He returned to Moi University between 1996 and July 1999 and taught for the Department of Wildlife Management. He joined The School for Field Studies from July 1999 to July 2009 as a lecturer and rose through the ranks to full professor in 2006. He was appointed SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies (CWMS) Director in July 2009. He then founded and directed SFS – CWMS Tanzania in addition to Kenya between September 2010 to 2012. He was appointed SFS Senior Director of East Africa between 2012 to 2015 overseeing SFS programs in both Kenya and Tanzania from 2012 to 2015. He left SFS briefly between 2015 and 2018 (when SFS suspended the Kenya program) to serve as a full professor of tourism and wildlife conservation at Moi University in Kenya and returned to SFS in the fall of 2018 as CWWS Director in Kenya. [Back]
  5. eMammal is a system for collecting, storing, and sharing camera trap data. The system is designed not only for scientists but also for anyone who wants to join in the fun and discovery of camera trapping through citizen science. Professional and volunteer camera trappers use our software to look at pictures, identify animals, and upload them to the Smithsonian Data Repository for review and storage. These data are useful for addressing important scientific and conservation questions, and the pictures provide a unique view into the hidden world of wildlife. [Back]


Stephanie Shuttler, PH.D.
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The Leveraged PH. D.

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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