A combination of Earlham factors aligned to help Jessa Watters ’01 secure her position as Collection Manager for Herpetology at the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma. Watters currently oversees nearly 52,000 catalogued specimens of amphibians and reptiles at the museum, collected from 50 countries and 46 states.
As an undergraduate, the Raymond, Ohio native served as a research assistant for Research Professor John Iverson (biology), who was the director of Earlham’s Joseph Moore Museum at the time. During her senior year, the museum contents needed to be relocated to storage pods so that Dennis Hall could be renovated. Like any good research assistant, Watters was a willing volunteer when Iverson asked for her help in assisting with the move.
At the same time, fellow biology major and Joseph Moore Museum student worker Samantha (Sam) Larimer ’01 and Watters developed an exhibit on African animals for the museum. The exhibit was based on photographs taken in 1999 by Watters, Larimer and other participants in the East Africa Program. Included in the display were photographs, trivia, a piece of elephant skin, and an activity in which children could match horns and antlers with various African hoofed mammals. Their idea was an obvious success, remaining a part of the museum for several years.
Iverson remained an influential faculty member to Watters during her years at Earlham, and remains so to this day. In fact, she credits his mentorship in herpetology as helping her obtain her current job. She also recognizes that having worked in the Joseph Moore Museum was also a selling point as she sought employment. Earlham has been a valuable stepping-stone for Watters.