Conservationist, television show host, and biologist
Born Jeffrey S. Corwin, July 11, 1967, in Norwell, MA; married Natasha; children: Maya Rose. Education: Graduated from Bridgewater State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and anthropology; graduated from University of Massachusetts at Amherst with master's degree in natural resources conservation.
Helped establish the Emerald Canopy Rainforest Foundation; worked in a field station in Central America; expedition naturalist for the JASON Project, 1994; produced the docudrama Jaguar Trax; created and starred in Going Wild with Jeff Corwin, Disney Channel, 1997-99; created and starred in Jeff Corwin Experience, Animal Planet, 2000—; host of Jeff Corwin Unleashed, Discovery Kids, c. 2002—.
Awards: Daytime Emmy Award for best performer in a children's series, for Jeff Corwin Unleashed, 2004.
American conservationist Jeff Corwin never outgrew his childhood fascination with wild animals, when he would routinely bring home salamanders, frogs, and garter snakes. In a 1984 expedition to the Central American country of Belize, Corwin fell in love with the rain forest and soon began to work as a conservationist, which included the establishment of the Emerald Canopy Rainforest Foundation. After some documentary work and teaching students about wildlife through an interactive computer network project, Corwin helped create and starred in the Disney Channel's Going Wild with Jeff Corwin. Since 2000, he has hosted the Animal Planet network's The Jeff Corwin Experience, a program that displays Corwin's hammy style as the well-informed animal lover talking about nature and conservation.
Growing up in a small coastal town in Massachusetts, Corwin was fascinated by animals for as long as anyone could remember. At the age of four, a non-venomous garter snake bit him while he was playing in his backyard. When his parents asked him to stay away from snakes, he replied "No." In fact, Corwin eventually started his own menagerie of wild critters. His mother soon learned to frisk him before he could come into the house.
Corwin's love of animals and growing knowledge about them was rewarded when, at the age of 16, he was invited to accompany scientists to the rain forest of Belize in Central America. Corwin's exposure to the rain forest and its teeming animal population led him to become a rain forest conservationist.
After graduating from high school, Corwin attended Bridgewater State University and received Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and anthropology. He also continued his work as an activist to protect the threatened rain forests of South America. He helped establish the Emerald Canopy Rainforest Foundation as a grass-roots organization dedicated to protecting rain forests through habitat conservation and educating the public. Corwin also served as a member of the United Nations Environment Program's Youth Action Committee.
Corwin returned to his beloved rain forests after graduating from college. He lived for three years working in a field station in Central America as he began what he thought would be an academic career in biology. His career goals changed after a documentary film crew came to Belize and asked Corwin to be a part of their project.
"That's when the bell went off," Corwin told Luaine Lee of the Scripps Howard News Service in an article that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "And I said: 'That's what I want to do. People saw it and said, "You might be able to do this, you've got some skills. You could capitalize on it."'"
In 1994, Corwin worked as an expedition naturalist for the JASON Project, which televised live broadcasts from the rain forests of Belize to classrooms. He also produced a docudrama in Costa Rica called Jaguar Trax. Nevertheless, Corwin, who was getting married, was struggling to make ends meet. "I gave up a pretty good job working in the field, traveling, on a course of academic research," Corwin told Lee. He added, "I lost my job, lost my security, had to wait tables for five years."
Although Corwin had done television work, like voiceovers, and had learned a lot about the industry, he turned his sights once more to academia and enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to work toward a master's degree. Then he got the call. The Disney Channel had seen a demo tape by Corwin and wanted him to create a television show for them.
Corwin made a pilot and Disney picked up the show. The first episode of Going Wild with Jeff Corwin was aired in 1997. For the next three years, Corwin co-created, produced and hosted the popular series, which became one of the first computer interactive programs on television.
After Going Wild with Jeff Corwin finished its run on the Disney Channel, Corwin completed his master's degree in natural resources conservation and wrote his thesis on Central American bats. But, Corwin's likable personality and infectious enthusiasm for nature and animals were not to be relegated to classrooms and field posts. Instead, he teamed up with the Animal Planet network to create the popular nature show Jeff Corwin Experience.
The prime time show premiered in the fall of 2000 and has been one of the network's most successful offerings. Traveling around the globe for ten months of the year, Corwin makes his way through jungles, mountains, rain forests and deserts to reveal animals in their natural habitat and give the audience an education in the process.
Corwin's other efforts at conservation and education include plans to develop a series of books exploring the natural history of endangered species and threatened ecosystems. He is also establishing an interactive museum and environmental education center called the EcoZone. Corwin's alma mater, Bridgewater State College, honored him in 1999 with a doctorate in public education for his efforts to teach the public about sustainable approaches to using natural resources and the importance of conserving endangered species.
Corwin still keeps snakes, a macaw, cats, and a fox as pets at his Massachusetts home, where he lives with his wife, Natasha, who is working on her doctorate in comparative literature. Corwin and his wife welcomed the birth of their daughter, Maya Rose, on July 6, 2003. The high-energy Corwin also finds time to jog between 35 and 40 miles a week. When questioned by Tom Weede in Men's Fitness about the importance of staying in good shape for his job, Corwin told about the time he and his film crew were charged by an elephant. "I can't outrun an elephant," Corwin told Weede. "But I sure can outrun the cameraman."
Men's Fitness, September 2002.
People, July 21, 2003, p. 89.
"Ellen Earns Daytime Emmy Cred," E! Online, http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,14167,00.html (September 28, 2004).
"Jeff Corwin Experience," Animal Planet, http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/jeffcorwin/jeffcorwin.html (September 28, 2004).
"TV Review: Jeff Corwin Stalks Planet's Past and Present Monsters," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Online, http://www.post-gazette.com/tv/20030309corwin0309fnp4.asp (September 28, 2004).