Passion for Learning: John Iverson and Iguanas

September 23, 2010

I shared lunch today with about 50 students and faculty members listening to John Iverson talk about iguanas in the Caribbean.

John is Professor of Biology and Director of our Joseph Moore Museum.  This is the year he retires, but I think we’re all hoping and expecting he’ll stay around and continue getting students enthused about standing knee deep in Nebraska swamps looking at turtles and “sexing” (that is, determining the sex of) iguanas on Leaf Cay and U Cay in the Bahamas.

John is running the longest continuous study of a lizard population anywhere in the world.  Over 32 years he’s taken 151 students to these tiny islands to observe and figure out what’s going on with these iguanas, some of whom are quite tiny, but some are large enough (and have sharp enough teeth) to separate a human being from his finger.

Speaking with enthusiasm at his customary high rate of speed, and throwing up chart after chart of data, John surveyed what he and his students have learned about these iguanas, some of whom, he thinks, live well over 40 years.

It was a bravura performance.  I think I learned more population and evolutionary biology in 60 minutes with John than I’d ever learned in College.

And I re-learned this, too, that I think I already knew:  feeding the iguanas is a bad idea, and not just because you could lose a finger.  It also does harm to them, almost no matter what you offer.  The iguanas will do well enough if we leave them alone — or don’t do anything more than study and appreciate them.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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