» Cryptozoology

So You Want to be a Cryptozoologist...
published in the Editorial, The ISC Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 1.
By J. Richard Greenwell, Editor - The ISC Newsletter
website: International Society of Cryptozoology

Over the years, the Secretariat has been the recipient of many communications from young people. Generally, these may be divided into three categories. The first category has encompassed letters from elementary schoolchildren who usually want "everything available" -- including photos -- on their favorite "monster." These monsters usually range from Bigfoot to Dracula. Sometimes entire classrooms write individual letters, often inserted together by their teacher into a large envelope. The teacher sometimes may write a separate covering letter also requesting the materials.

Many of these letters are precious testaments to the innocence and excitement of childhood. (After many years, I still have one such letter with two quarters -- a child's weekly allowance -- taped to it, his contribution to a future cryptozoology expedition. Somehow, I have never been able to bring myself to untape the coins and use them.) Sadly, however, the Society does not have an education department, and does not have the resources needed to meet all these requests from schoolchildren, which sometimes number in the hundreds per year.

Obviously, the expenditure of the Society's limited budget has to be devoted first to its paying members, and there has never been anything left over for public education programs, either for children or adults.

The second category of incoming letters covers middle and high school students. Many of these have selected some cryptozoological animal -- usually Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster -- on which to write a class report. Of course, the report is almost due, and all such information is needed immediately. These letters are sometimes followed by urgent telephone appeals from anxious parents who, not unreasonably, assume that the Society has a public duty -- if not a mandate -- to provide such assistance.

Other high school students or college freshmen sometimes have a more intellectual interest in cryptozoology in general, having perhaps read a book on the subject in the school library. They may even seek advice concerning their planned intention to pursue cryptozoology as an academic subject. This is the third category. We actually get quite a few letters from students requesting advice on the best academic cryptozoology programs in the nation. It is sometimes even assumed that some colleges must have entire cryptozoology departments.

Although I am sometimes tempted to recommend the cryptozoology programs at Harvard or Yale, the truth is that there are, of course, no academic programs or departments devoted to cryptozoology at all. Nor, in my opinion, should there be. Existing zoology departments -- or "ecology" and/or "evolution" departments, as they are now increasingly being re-named -- have room for many subjects, and there is no reason why cryptozoological topics cannot occasionally be addressed in such venues.

Several departmental courses around the country have already included some cryptozoological topics, and sometimes guest speakers have been included. I could even envision a particular course on cryptozoology if the interest were there, but I see no need for an entire academic program -- much less a full-fledged department -- devoted to cryptozoology.

Here, then, is the basic information the Secretariat imparts -- and ISC members may do likewise if they wish -- to interested high school or college students concerning the pursuit of cryptozoology within academia:
1) There are no academic departments of, or academic programs in, cryptozoology at any college or university anywhere in the world.
2) Even if there were, there are no career opportunities specifically in cryptozoology anywhere.
3) Those with a serious interest in cryptozoology may pursue it within the context of some established zoological discipline, such as mammalogy or population ecology, or a social science, such as history or linguistics.
4) It is recommended that any interest in cryptozoology be maintained low key while scholarly studies are pursued, and, also, that cryptozoological issues not dominate one's objective pursuit of knowledge.
5) If an academic or professional career within zoology or some related field is ultimately pursued, it is recommended that an interest in cryptozoology not be allowed to endanger career prospects, particularly through the loss of tenure or promotion. Certainly, cryptozoology is a scientific subject, and should be pursued in a scientific manner, but that does not mean that it is perceived as a scientific endeavor by decision-makers whose knowledge of it is limited or incorrect.

I hope this brief summary answers all or most of the questions concerning cryptozoology from information-hungry students. Unfortunately, we cannot offer more than these generalized answers and recommendations.

J. Richard Greenwell
The ISC Newsletter