For four months every year,
biologist Janalee Caldwell leaves the comfort of her
beautiful country stone home in Oklahoma to live in a makeshift
lean-to fashioned from trees and plastic deep in the rainforests
of the Amazon Basin in South America. She and her biologist husband,
Laurie Vitt, trek into isolated areas of unexplored forests to
find out what kinds of frogs and reptiles live there. Janalee
is interested in frogs. Her husband does research on lizards and
To do her research, Janalee spends many hours each day standing
in the forest observing frogs and tadpoles through binoculars.
She takes notes or talks into a tape recorder to have a record
of what she sees and hears. She frequently goes out at night,
walking miles into the forest with a headlight strapped to her
forehead, because some animals she and her husband want to find
only come out at night.
Janalee collects samples of the forest's frog population, photographs
them, and kills them quickly in a solution. The she removes
their stomachs with tiny surgical instruments so that she can
examine the stomach contents to find out what prey the frog
has eaten. Janalee preserves the frogs so that they can be seen
in museums and borrowed for study by people all over the world.
She also writes articles for scientific journals on her new
findings about the behavior of frogs and the relationships between
frogs and insects. This helps scientists know more about the
ecology of rainforests.
Together, Janalee and Laurie are in charge of a collection
of over 35,000 amphibians and reptiles at the Oklahoma Museum
of Natural History. Amphibians such as frogs are animals that
can live both on land and in water. Janalee is associate curator
and Laurie is curator of amphibians and reptiles. Janalee is
also associate professor of zoology at the University of Oklahoma.
(excerpted from the biography written by Mary Knudson, and
the entire biography is available on the Rainforest Ecologist