In June of 1984, Cameron caught his first snake by himself on the back campus of Earlham College at age 10. His older brother David was leading an Earlham Alumni bird watching trip with the late Dr. Jim Cope. Cameron was tagging along behind the group searching the woods for anything of interest when he came across a five foot black rat snake. Upon catching the snake he came back to the group and in a loud whisper caught David’s and Jim’s attention holding a snake longer than he was. He was instantly the hit of the field trip. Growing up , some of his earliest memories were hunting snakes in the woods near Maryville College, Tennessee, often with his older brother using primitive methods to secure the snakes they found. A lot has changed since those days. David no longer has a chance to spot a snake before Cameron and no sticks are used to catch them as they are gently raised of the ground, enjoyed, photographed, and released at the capture site. The intensity of Cameron’s passion flared after the story above occurred. He spent most of his childhood days “hunting” snakes, convincing his mother to let him keep them, and then letting them go later. He caught everything he could and was lucky enough not to encounter any venomous snakes during these early years. This early experience led him to start keeping and breeding corn snakes while in high school.
Cameron attended Earlham College to study biology with Dr. John Iverson who took him as a freshman off campus to the sandhills of Nebraska to study bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi) and later to the Bahamas to study rock iguanas. A herpetologist was born. As a sophomore, Cameron was awarded a contract by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct an inventory and monitoring study on copperbelly watersnakes (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) on the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge for the next three years. After Earlham, Cameron’s passion took him to the University of South Florida to study snake ecology with Drs. Henry Mushinsky and Earl McCoy but he learned the hard lesson of what spending too much time hunting snakes instead of studying does to one’s academic intentions. He left USF to work as a consultant with another herpetologist, Steve Godley, at Biological Research Associates, Inc. During his interview, Steve showed Cameron flashcards of threatened and endangered Florida animals and Cameron got them all right. This impressed Steve enough to put Cameron on a project team with Dr. Steve Christman who was leading a survey effort for all wildlife species on over 10,000 acres in Hardee County, Florida. Steve (Christman) was a natural teacher and Cameron absorbed and extracted as much information out of him as possible during that summer together. Cameron and his wife, Heather eventually decided to leave Florida for greener pastures in Georgia. Cameron’s snake adventures then went to the University of Georgia where he met Dr. Whit Gibbons while taking herpetology as a post-baccalaureate student. Whit and Cameron quickly found that they shared a common snake “passion” and Whit asked Cameron to sign on as a graduate student and help him survey 15 national parks and monuments in the southeastern United States. Of course the answer was yes. While at UGA, Cameron met Dr. Robert Reed who was working with Whit as a post-doctoral student. Cameron and Bob became fast friends and ended up teaching Herpetology together in 2003. There are 20 UGA students who will likely never forget that spring semester of snake catching with Cameron and Bob. Graduate school was very difficult for Cameron as he tried to commute from Lawrenceville, GA to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, SC while taking and teaching classes in Athens, GA. Cameron eventually put his graduate degree on hold and went back to environmental consulting with ENSR-AECOM. Consulting has been a constant theme in Cameron’s life and shaped his career but he did not lose his passion for snakes.
The Center of Snake Conservation has been a dream of Cameron’s for many years. The focus for the Center’s goal and mission is highly influenced by Cameron’s education and career and is four pronged: education, scientific research, field assessment, and conservation efforts. Cameron spent the 2006-2007 school year teaching at South Gwinnett High School in Lilburn, GA. This was one of Cameron’s toughest years professionally but also taught him about and ignited a new passion—teaching. Teaching is a vital component of CSC’s mission and efforts. Education is the basis for all sound conservation and CSC believes in the fundamental premise that humans protect what they love. By exposing children to the beauty and values of snakes early in their lives, CSC hopes to instill basic respect and love for a highly persecuted and misunderstood organisms. In December 2010, Cameron made a commitment to himself to ensure the success of his dream and the conservation of snakes. CSC was registered as a non-profit organization in the state of Colorado at 8:14 pm on 5 January 2011. The CSC received its IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status from the IRS in December 2011.