Kent VanSooy was, and shall always be honored as one of the founding members of our Southwestern Field Herping Association organization. For those of us who were lucky enough to know Kent personally, the year 2015 will always be remembered as the year we lost a great friend, but even more so, our community lost a genuinely wonderful man. Those of us who knew him personally are very fortunate indeed, and those of us whom he considered to be friends are richer for the experience. Our fellow associate, Noah Anderson, summed it up for all of us with the following sentiments:
“I find it terribly difficult and painful to reconcile that such a wonderful, gifted and talented person with a mind full of so much information, so much wisdom and experience, such kindness and compassion, could just be gone in an instant. But such is life. The world has lost a great biologist, naturalist, conservationist, herpetologist, husband, friend and an all around wonderful guy. I am truly honored to have been able to call Kent VanSooy my friend and he will be sorely missed by a great many people who loved and respected him.”
For those not fortunate enough to have known or have had the opportunity to meet and get to know Kent, it can be said that he was truly a gentleman and a scholar. Here in Kent’s own words is his autobiography that he authored a few years ago for this SWFHA website:
“Kent is a native Californian who graduated with a BS degree in Zoology from Long Beach State, where he studied herpetology under Dr. Richard Loomis. He has spent the last 25 years working in the biotechnology field, but has retained the study of native reptiles and amphibians as an enthusiastic avocation. Kent believes that data and information are key to understanding the natural world, and that a more thorough understanding will help land-use managers and government agencies develop balanced policies toward native reptiles and amphibians. He enthusiastically supports introducing young people to the beauty of our native herpetofauna, and helping them form an appreciation of the vital role they play in our ecosystems.”
Kent was equally as passionate about photography, hiking, exploring new places, riding his bike and sportfishing, an activity he very much enjoyed with his young grandson. He was one of the first herpers in our state to acquire a California Native Reptile Captive Propagation Permit, and one of the very early supporters and proponents of the North American Field Herping Association and the H.E.R.P. database project. Kent served for two years as the first VP of the fledgling NAFHA California Chapter with our first President, Jeff Lemm. Kent then went on to serve as the CA Chapter President for the following two years.
During his tenure as CA Chapter President, Kent was solely responsible for making contact with the managers of the Escondido Creek Conservancy, and organizing the chapter’s first (and NAFHA’s first) herpetological survey project for a private land management organization. He continued that effort in initializing NAFHA projects with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.
In 2009, on behalf of NAFHA, Kent was solely responsible for reaching out to the research team at U. C. Davis that had been contracted by the CA Department of Fish & Wildlife to review and update the California Amphibian & Reptile Species of Special Concern list (ARSSC). This personal effort by Kent resulted in the first data request and release from the H.E.R.P. database project.
In addition to being a founding member of the Southwestern Field Herping Associates, Kent was also a USGS volunteer under the sponsorship of Dr. Robert Fisher, and one of only two amateur herpetologists selected by Dr. Tom Jones of the Arizona Game & Fish Department to take part in a department sponsored citizen science data gathering experiment.
Visitors to the NAFHA forums, even if they were there for only a short while, were treated to Kent 's humor, knowledge, kindness, and of course, his photography. He shared so much of himself with us. Although he was preoccupied with photographing the reptiles and amphibians he found in the field, Kent also had an eye for natural beauty, and loved photographing his grandchildren and members of his family including his and Anne-Marie's cats. In fond memory of our dear friend, we are pleased to share some photos of Kent, and share some of his photography with you as well. In addition, many of the reptile and amphibian photos in our photo gallery are Kent's.