I still remember being a fascinated young boy with jars of live spiders in my garage and tanks full of grasshoppers in my driveway. My cousin Karl caught a bunch of ribbon snakes near his suburban home and during one family visit I took a few home. I was about 9. Forty-six years later, I have only recently stopped keeping reptiles & arachnids. I enjoyed decades of herpetoculture & arachnoculture while breeding snakes (pythons, boas, colubrids and vipers), geckos, chameleons, dart frogs and tarantulas.
After more than a few failed attempts to earn a zoology degree and become a herpetologist, I started a career in the pet industry over thirty years ago. I became immersed in the captive husbandry and breeding of reptiles, amphibians and tarantulas, sometimes working for others and sometimes operating my own businesses with names like Jacobi Herpetoculture, Chicago Reptile, Exotic Fauna, Michael Jacobi's Spider Shoppe and The Living Terrarium.
Writing has been another lifelong passion and along the way I added skills in editing, website & graphic design and photography. Many projects have come and gone. These include my Tarantula Bibliography, a monthly updated compendium of all of the world's theraphosid spider species along with citations to related publications, and my World of Atheris online monograph devoted to the African bush vipers of the tribe Atherini. Although these web resources have since vanished into the cyberspace ether, my written works such as my Animal Planet published book Tarantulas survive. I also sold a monograph on geckos and their husbandry to T.F.H. Publications but, sadly, it was never published.
After a decade of traveling to the jungles of Costa Rica, Suriname, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Borneo, in 2017 I returned to my U.S. roots. I lived full-time on the road in an RV to facilitate enjoying the incredible diversity of American fauna and flora and its beautiful and varied landscape. January and March was spent in Florida (with a break between to travel to Malaysia) and April found me following the Mexican border west across Texas. I jumped around a bit in late April and May as I spent time assisting some scorpion research in Arizona, but headed back east to New Mexico and back again to Arizona before finally setting at Rusty's RV Ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. Situated in the San Simon Valley, nestled between the Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico's boot heel and the wondrous Chiricahuas of southeastern Arizona, I spent four months at Rusty's in order to explore the Chiris most days and road cruise the boot heel most nights. In this field herper's paradise, I also became enamored of the birds and other wildlife.
Most visit Arizona during the winter ("snowbirds") and spend their summers in temperate climes, but I am a maverick (positive spin) or a knucklehead (brutal truth) and did the opposite. I actually returned to my native Chicagoland for the winter of 2017-2018 in order to work and visit family.
In April 2018 I returned to Rusty's to continue hiking, herping and birding with camera in hand. I had arranged to be volunteer host at the Cave Creek Canyon Visitor Information Center beginning in June, but my training and duties started very soon after arrival back in the area. As spring became summer, I agreed to stay through September, then October, then November 2018. Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, the non-profit organization that I volunteer for, got special permission along the way for me to stay camped in the Chiricahua Mountains for longer than normally permitted. I had become the caretaker of the VIC and being camped only 100 yards up canyon from it for seven months was a treat.
In January 2018 I will be making my third field trip to Malaysia, once again spending time with my mate Mark Pennell and his family and friends on Langkawi Island, Malaysia (my third trip!) with an excursion to Thailand, after a visit to Hong Kong and Penang.I will return to my position at the VIC come March 2019.
for a brief "In Focus" interview with me published in the Journal of the BTS click here.
RUSTY'S RV RANCH, Site #39, Rodeo, New Mexico