North Lake College science professor Charles Siegel has spent a lifetime following his curiosity. Siegel’s global adventure began in 1984 when he moved to the rainforests of Peru to study bird populations.
“I was a kid from suburban Chicago who moved to the Amazon,” explains Siegel, smiling. “It was a completely new experience.”
Living and working in the largest rainforest in the world, Siegel set out to discover what species of birds were living in the region, the length of their lifespan, and the expanse of their territory. He would routinely catch, measure, weigh, and catalog the birds.
“I was just one of many scientists working there at the time,” explains Siegel, referring to Tamshiyacu Tahuayo, a reserve in the western Amazon rainforest.
A nonprofit organization grew out of those scientists’ work. Today, it is known as The Rainforest Conservation Fund.
Over time, his love for animals became more than a passion: it became a lifelong career.
As former Deputy Director of the Dallas Zoo, Siegel was responsible for the well-being of 7,000 exotic animals, day and night, 365 days of the year.
Following retirement, Charles found himself asking, “What’s next?” And he found his answer in teaching.
After a few semesters working part-time at Eastfield College, Siegel was hired as a full-time biology instructor at North Lake. Today, he shares his curiosity and knowledge with approximately 190 students each week. The reward, he says, is seeing the lights go on in a student’s head when they finally grasp a difficult concept.
“Biology is like drinking from a firehose: the amount of information can be mind-numbing,” says Siegel. “To keep material from becoming dry, I try and put passion into my teachings and use everyday examples students can relate to.”
Much like the diverse animals Siegel once cared for, his students at North Lake College are a varied group, coming from a range of backgrounds, locations, and beginnings. Some are science majors, some are not. Siegel says that not one or the other is a challenge, but all are challenges at once.
“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” Siegel explains. “I believe students need to know that I care about the learning process — their success in the course, and that I care about them as individuals.”
Charles Siegel is the 2014-2015 North Lake College President’s Scholar. To learn more about his upcoming presentation on human enhancement, click here.