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Professor Gibson: The Roadkill King

Updated on January 24, 2018

Jason Gibson an accomplished author but, chances are, you have not read any of his work. Or have you?

As an Assistant Professor of Biology at Patrick Henry Community College, Jason feeds the curious minds of college students as well as high school students attending the Piedmont Governor’s School at PHCC.

He loves science so much that he keeps doing it even after work hours, even when he is driving home, even when it compels him to stop on the side of the road to examine a carcass.

“This little book contains 18 years of roadkill data from our area,” he explains as he flips through the neatly written pages of a small black notebook. It’s a journal of sorts. As he travels to and from work, Jason stops to document the snakes and turtles he finds on the side of the road. The detailed descriptions he has compiled in his little black book provide Jason and other scientists with valuable data.

Getting a mention in Jason’s little black book is not the end of the line for the roadkill Jason finds. It is just the beginning of a new life of fame. Jason has published approximately 80 articles in various scientific publications like Herpetological Review, Banisteria, and Catesbeiana.

In the past 20 years, he has also participated in 48 surveys of animal distribution in Virginia. These surveys help map the habitat and range of animals that call the Old Dominion home.

“I’m an observer. I learn everything I can about animals, mostly reptiles and amphibians, and then I go look for anomalies…things that aren’t normal. Then, I do some research on the subject. If it really is out of the ordinary, I write it up. I always tell people to take a photo whenever they see something interesting because you may be the only person that’s ever seen that particular behavior or characteristic.”

Gibson’s primary focus is frogs, though he has been known to trap and document many turtles. If you were to ask him, though, you would find his passion extends to snakes, reptiles, and almost any other animal that shares our planet. In the end, Jason’s data collecting, the roadside tête-à-tête with the deceased, and even his fascination for reptiles are all inspired by one over-arching passion – science.

Through his passion for science, Jason has helped hundreds students and countless other scientists to know more about the animals of Virginia. Who would want the type of data Jason collects and publishes? A lot of people. Gibson regularly receives requests for photos and information from a variety of publications. Maybe you have seen your professor’s work and didn’t even know it.

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