By Paco Snyder
He hand-raised a bear, bottle-raised a cougar and has taken care of over 8,000 animals during his lifetime, and now biology professor Charles “Chuck” Siegel is at North Lake sharing his experience and knowledge with different kinds of creatures—his biology students.
A self-described nature fanatic, Siegel has been a part of North Lake since August 2011, and anyone who has stepped foot in his office can’t help but notice over two dozen plants that span the length of his office window.
“I like them. I like nature and natural things; they also make for an interesting conversation starter,” said Siegel, who loves all living things.
Before North Lake, Siegel worked at the Henson Robinson Zoo in Springfield, Ill., just three hours from his hometown of Chicago.
He then transferred to the Dallas Zoo where he worked as the Zoo Animal Curator, Deputy Director and Associate Curator of Birds and Zoologist for more than 20 years.
During that time, Siegel made an impact on the field of zoology like none before him. One notable achievement is that Siegel and his team were the first to breed a saddle-billed stork in captivity.
Siegel loves all animals but has a soft spot in his heart for all things avian; in fact, he began his zoo career in falconry.
Siegel recalls one particular bird that he used to handle. It was a Buff-crested Bustard named Dancer who had a habit of always doing a mating call whenever Siegel passed by.
Siegel has taught at Eastfield College and the University of North Texas as well as Zoo Biology at the Smithsonian Institution & Pew Charitable Trusts in Shanghai, China.
He currently teaches biology 1406, 1407 and 1408 at NLC.
Siegel said he has always been known as “the zoo guy,” but the time it took him to rediscover himself and change his identity went by quicker than he thought.
“It just sort of happened,” said Siegel, who has found his new identity as a professor just as rewarding.
Siegel says his students would describe him as enthusiastic, helpful and understanding and that is 100 percent accurate, though he wishes he had more time with them. Like the birds he loves so much, his students fly away, too.
“They’re here for maybe one or two semesters and then their gone.”