About the Founder

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?

I’ve kept tortoises for many years, and as most keepers, tended to keep an eye out for tortoises in need. One day I had been browsing craigslist and found a sickly sulcata in Eastern Iowa that needed a lot of 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, guided 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!

Photos of the craigslist sulcata tortoise in his previous home:

This tortoise was housed inappropriately with minimal space.
This tortoise was also given an inappropriate diet of tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.
This tortoise had a severe case of Metabolic Bone Disease.
On his way to our home – on his way to a better life!
For several months, he was very lethargic and hardly would eat.

After arriving at our sanctuary:

After living indoors over the winter in a much larger enclosure, he was already more alert and eating more.
Vast improvements were seen when he got to live outdoors for summer!
He gained strength and was more energized!
Today Dozer weighs a lot more!

He has come a long ways:

He got his beak trimmed up so he could eat a bit easier! It’s never been a problem since.
His growth has sky-rocketed! He was gaining more than a pound a month over summer!
The pyramiding / scutes are starting to separate apart as he grows more!

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)
All the sanctuary residents after the first year in operation
(Don’t worry – the photos of each tortoise were taken individually or in small groups while I watched them carefully so they would not fall, then all arranged by photo-shop! This created such a fun “family” photo!)

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.