Michael P. Wines

Author of Stupid Alabama

Michael P. Wines holding a reptile

Michael P. Wines, a graduate student majoring in herpetology, has recently released Stupid Alabama, a children’s book in which he illustrates certain elements of his life and studies. The book, which is about a middle school-aged Northerner who visits his biologist uncle (an Auburn professor) in the south, mirrors Wines’ own childhood, as he moved from Michigan to Tennessee at age eight. Wines says he has always loved the outdoors and that this clearly influenced his pursuit of biology. “The first thing I did [upon moving the south]…was [climb] a tree,” recalls Wines. “I was convinced I lived next to a real life jungle…[and probably] went feral for a few years…I was constantly outside exploring.”

Though Wines found Tennessee and then Alabama very different from Michigan, he says that he gradually began to appreciate the South. When he moved to Alabama, he found that it had a greater biodiversity “than almost anywhere in the world”—consisting of many different species of freshwater mussels, freshwater fish, and turtles. It is such diversity that, according to Wines, the North lacks.

Wines’ fascination with reptiles comes from their “mystery” and “adventure.” Reptiles base their complete life strategy on following the seasons. “[Reptiles] need a specific temperature, humidity, and light cycle…they are a puzzle,” explains Wines.

Stupid Alabama, a book for younger readers (and Wines’ first book), is obviously very different from the academic writing Wines has done before. But Wines points out similarities, as both try to tell a story. Stupid Alabama, Wines explains, is influenced by his research and by the practice of doing research. “I constantly daydream…so the two [writing styles sometimes] cross and turn into a funny scenario in my mind.”

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