On Friday, February 12th, NCSU faculty & students gathered in the lobby of David Clark Labs to issue a very fond farewell to Dr. Harold Heatwole, who is retiring after 25 years at the university. Dr. Heatwole has been a beloved and respected member of the Zoology department since his arrival as department head in 1991. Serving in that capacity for 4 years, he then turned his focus toward teaching and his research on the physiology and natural history of reptilia. His reputation as a passionate and engaging coworker and professor is well deserved and his courses in General Biology and Ecology, Comparative Anatomy, and Herpetology were student favorites. The herpetology course was particularly popular with DVM program students because Dr. Heatwole was willing to teaching it on weekends to facilitate their taking the class.
Before coming to North Carolina, Dr. Heatwole was a professor at the University of New England in Australia, where his research on the Great Barrier Reef positioned him as the world’s preeminent scholar on sea snakes. In fact, he literally wrote the book on the subject, to considerable acclaim. He is one of the lucky few who have ever survived a sea snake envenomation, fitting considering that he spent more than twenty years studying venomous snakes and their ecology during his time in New South Wales.
Dr. Heatwole’s expertise extends beyond herpetology, and includes microorganisms, protozoans, invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals, fungi, as well as vascular plants. He holds degrees in botany, zoology and geography. A prolific writer, he has authored over three hundred peer-reviewed articles and a total of seven books. He also has edited two multi-volume monograph series, and has served on the editorial board for numerous publications. His professional service has included serving as president of the Australian Society of Herpetologists, the Great Barrier Reef Committee, and the Australian Coral Reef Society.
His research has taken him to environmental extremes on all seven continents, and his passion for his work and pioneering attitude earned him a fellowship in the prestigious and exclusive Explorer’s Club. He has instilled a proper exploratory attitude in his students, encouraging them to broaden their global horizons throughout his career. He has organized field courses at the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, the Namib Desert, and even Antarctica.
Dr. Heatwole’s transition ceremony was attended by many friends and colleagues who he entertained with his tireless, sprightly, and sporting sense of humor. Wearing his trademark fanny pack, he assured his well-wishers that his work would continue both in North Carolina and in Australia. Among other things, he hopes to continue his recent efforts developing a videography portfolio for use in distance education to bring the global classroom to a broader audience.