About the Founder

The start of our ever-growing shell family !
(Photos of tortoises were individually taken and arranged on the steps using photoshop)
(Do not worry, no tortoises were in danger!)

How our rescue came about:

As the founder of Big and Small Tortoise Rescue and Sanctuary, I can tell you that I never expected this rescue to become successful, nor did I expect to enjoy it so much! Despite being challenging and demanding, tortoise keeping (and rescuing) is so rewarding and enjoyable! I would have never thought my life would revolve around tortoises, but now-a-days, I can’t imagine my life without tortoises! So how did this come to be?

Many years ago, I was searching petfinder and found a redfoot in Minnesota in need of a home. I had always heard from my sister, who is a veterinarian and has worked with tortoises, that they were such unique and fascinating animals. I decided to give it a go and drove to Minnesota to adopt our first tortoise. After adopting him, I realized this 6 year old tortoise was far from healthy with a pyramided, flaky, and pliable shell. The previous owners had mentioned they fed it nothing but spinach and chicken. He was kept in a far too small, tall-sided tubberware container (which provided poor ventilation for heat exchange). Minimal humidity, excessive heat (with no where to escape the heat), in addition to a poor diet led him to develop these issues. Needless to say, I was forced to learn as quickly as possible to turn his care around. I became so invested in researching and learning about tortoise keeping and started realizing how much contradictory information is out there. It takes a lot of critical researching to uncover the keys to successful tortoise keeping, a highly motivated individual to provide such care, and a sharp eye to observe changes in behavior / improvements so each tortoise gets individualized treatment for recovery. Long story short, I learned so much and felt motivated to help more tortoises in need.

Our first rescue tortoise, Olive.

Later, I had been browsing craigslist and found a sickly sulcata in Eastern Iowa that needed even more help! This tortoise had severe metabolic bone disease – so bad that his carapace was caved inward like a bowl, and there were deep grooves between each scute. He was approximately 6 years old and only weighed 5.6 lbs, as he lived his whole life in a small glass tank with no UV or heat. I really was unsure if I was ready to handle such a severe case, so I reached out to Northwest Tortoise (a tortoise rescue in Washington) for advice. Terese Myer, the founder of Northwest Tortoise, helped to guide me through caring for him and getting him back to full strength. Developing a relationship with an individual that cared so much for tortoises was very motivational and inspiring and I got the idea to start my own tortoise rescue. Although she warned me that there are emotional ups and downs to being in this “business” I pushed forward and started Big and Small Tortoise Rescue and Sanctuary!

Dozer, our second rescue tortoise

Now our rescue is starting to grow faster than I ever expected, and am thrilled. I am always humbled by the overwhelming support from other tortoise keepers or tortoise fans! I am so glad I decided to start this endeavor. It’s so rewarding and enjoyable to rescue and rehabilitate tortoises. It’s not just rescuing and rehabbing that are enjoyable (although this is the part that is most enjoyable), but working with like-minded individuals has also become very rewarding. Since opening, our rescue has consistently gained more experience and we will continue to learn more and more.

This map shows the tortoises rescued / adopted in the first year of operation.
(Red = Redfoot, Blue = Sulcata, Turquoise = Leopard, Green = Russian, Purple = Other)

More about me and my family:

I grew up in a small town in Northern Illinois, but my family is originally from central Iowa. This is what led me to Iowa State University for my college education. I studied Agronomy and Kinesiology for my undergraduate degree, went on to study soil science and environmental science for my masters degree, and finally studied interdepartmental genetics and genomics in maize (corn) for my PhD work. Recently, I started a job at Complex Computations LLC in Ames as a bioinformaticist. In my free time, I enjoy running or painting (although I’m not very good at it!).

I am married to a generous husband who is willing to build us so many indoor and outdoor enclosures! He is not necessarily the tortoise-lover in the family, but he still plays a vital role to the rescue because without his help our efforts would be minimized significantly. He does, however, have a big heart for animals, and understands these tortoises need our help. Together, we have also adopted 3 dogs, 4 cats, many fish and geckos.