Sean B. Carroll, PhD

Vice President for Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

In his latest book, The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters, Sean B. Carroll tells us the remarkable story of Robert Paine, who revolutionized ecology by throwing starfish out of tide pools. Paine’s bold experiments revealed predators have an ineluctable impact on every animal and plant in an ecosystem.

If a writer turned the lens on Carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin, and vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he would have an equally adventurous subject who’s made fantastic contributions to science. Only in Carroll’s case the inspirational animal would not be starfish but snakes.

As a kid, Carroll loved everything about snakes, especially the colors and patterns of their scales. In the animation below, listen to him describe his days catching snakes on the shores of Lake Erie, where his mom drove him and his buddy Tom, and you hear the fascination with the natural world of a born scientist.