Featured Alum: Gina Horton Vasquez, Natural Science 1999

Gina with skunk

Gena with a skunk. The skunk was a native species that had been confiscated from someone who tried to keep it as a pet.

My name is Gena Horton Vazquez and I graduated in 1999 with a degree in Natural Science.  I chose CBU because of its small campus size and its excellent and caring professors.   I started off as a  Biology major and during my time at CBU they introduced a degree in Natural Science.  Under the advice of Brother Edward Salgado, I determined that this major better suited my career path.    During my junior year at CBU I was accepted into an internship at the Regional Forensic Center here in Memphis, TN, in forensic anthropology.  I became interested in forensic anthropology when I took a medical anthropology class from Professor Teri Mason.  She introduced me to Dr. Steven Symes at the Regional Forensics Center and the rest is, as they say, history.  After graduating from CBU, I went on to obtain a Masters’ degree in archaeology and Medical Anthropology.

Gina with elephant tusk.

The lion skull (below) and the elephant tusk are photos of me doing forensic analysis on a shipment from Africa.

My time at CBU prepared me for my career in forensics.  I work for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the Port of Memphis.  I provide law enforcement and evidence support for special agents and inspectors.  I also provide forensic support for the port by assisting with identification of species, crime scene and evidence photography, evidence processing, and live wildlife handling.  This pretty much means that on any given day, I could be handling anything from thousand dollar handbags to highly venomous snakes, spiders, and scorpions.  I have also helped inspect live wildlife that is being imported into the U.S.  We have seen pandas, lions, Canadian lynx, penguins, and polar bears.

Gena with Lion SkullWe inspect these shipments for many reasons.   We look for licenses, permits, presence of undeclared wildlife (smuggling), and the presence of invasive or injurious species.  This helps to keep our wildlife safe and protected for the enjoyment of the American people and people around the world.

My job has taken me across the states and around the world.  I have been to our National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, and I have been to the great polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.  I am truly blessed to have a career that I love.  I truly feel that CBU prepared me well.