I guess a good place to start would be my childhood. I believe if there were to be a survey done of people who witnessed my childhood, the one unanimous response would be that I was completely enamoured with animals. From dogs and horses to birds and snakes, I was always captivated by them.

I have to credit my parents here for their amazing support as I literally turned their life into a zoo. My interest in animals and searching high and low for them birthed another passion of mine: being outdoors. Neither of these interests was a passing childhood phase, as both have continued to be an important part of who I am as an adult.

However, I did acquire additional interests with age. For my undergraduate education, I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where I fell in love with the field of biology and the research I was able to participate in. In particular, I have continued to pursue my lifelong interest in herpetology, which is the study of reptiles and amphibians. My fascination with these often overlooked creatures has led me to intern in a zoo, travel through Australia, and assist in field research on rattlesnakes. I started a new chapter in my life by enrolling in grad school where I am combining my interests in biology, research, and herpetology in pursuit of a Master's degree.

But before diving into grad school in the fall of 2014, I wanted to go on a grand adventure and fulfill a dream of mine by riding the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Then, partway through my M.S. program at California State University, Northridge, where I was investigating the role of genetic adaptation and developmental plasticity in the successful range expansion of the Mediterranean House Gecko, I knew I had to ride the PCT a second time.

I put my graduate studies on pause, knowing that I could always come back to school, but that Shyla's trail days are limited by her age, so I had to make the most of the time we have together. I also plan to use my experiences from both rides to create a guidebook for equestrians on the PCT so that others can also have an opportunity to explore this amazing natural treasure, and perhaps to turn my knowledge into a potential business as an equestrian wilderness adventure consultant.

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-Gillian