Fear of snakes is one of the most profound and pervasive of human phobias, yet human attitudes toward snakes and many of the other animals that herpetologists study are highly variable. With respect to snakes, some of this variation likely has a biological basis, as snakes may have been an important source of mortality in the evolution of our species. But experience must also be important in determining human attitudes toward snakes in particular, and amphibians and reptiles in general. I contend that small, seemingly inconsequential events can profoundly affect a person's attitudes toward amphibians and reptiles, and that such events can even serve to deflect one onto an altogether different career trajectory than what might otherwise have been. In support of this proposition I trace the development of my interests in herpetology, and in so doing identify the events and influences that were pivotal in the development of my attitude toward amphibians and reptiles and in shaping my career as a herpetologist. My interest in herpetology began as a boyhood fascination with snakes, sparked by a seminal publication in National Geographic Magazine. Later, fortuitous associations with supportive academic mentors were instrumental in setting my herpetological path. Yet, things did not have to play out the way they did; without those chance events and influences, things could so very easily have been different.
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Vol. 66 • No. 2