BENKILHAM.COM

BLACK BEAR BEHAVIOR


 

MY STORY AND GOALS:




    When I started this journey 20 years ago, I had very low expectations and a very simple idea.  I wanted to study carnivore behavior, perhaps with fishers (a large woodland weasel), coyotes, or bobcat.  I had this interest since before I attended college.  It grew out of growing up with my father Lawrence Kilham.  He was a virologist at the Dartmouth Medical School who studied bird behavior as an amateur.  Our house was home for many species of wild visitors from woodpeckers to a leopard.  My interest was keen; I often helped my father with observations and raising wild creatures. As a result, he had four books published and wrote as many as 125 scientific journal articles.

    I am what is now called a “gifted” dyslexic, that is I have an IQ in the top 1 percent of the human population but I read at a “third grade” level.  While I was unaware of the term dyslexia at the time, I managed to graduate from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Wildlife in 1974, I my grades and test scores were erratic at best and I was unable to get into graduate school.  With my dreams of studying animal behavior and working with it professionally were dashed, I enrolled and graduated from a trade school for gunsmithing in Lakewood ,  Colorado.  It was apparent I had another calling, as I flourished working with my hands.  For the first time in my life, the results of my efforts reflected my ability, and the results were tangible.  My experience as a gunsmith was challenging and personally rewarding (see biography), but I still had aspirations and an interest in animal behavior.

    In 1982, my wife Debbie, who I met while we both worked in  product engineering at Colt Firearms,  and I moved back to Lyme, New Hampshire where I opened my own custom gunsmithing business.  I didn’t fully comprehend why I was such a poor student until after I was accepted as a Special Student at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering.  I was accepted at the recommendation of two of my customers who were professors at Thayer who had recognized my ability for mechanical design.  I was tested for learning disabilities and for the first time understood why I had such difficulty with school.  Despite an IEP (individual educational plan) I could not keep up with the reading or calculus and quickly dropped out.

    What I learned from this experience I wished I had known twenty years earlier.  I learned that I was intelligent and that I could succeed at anything if I relied on my abilities and developed methods that worked for me.  My methods for both mechanical design and behavioral research involve observation, experience and testing with experience.  I  follow the evidence and use scientific literature only as  reference.  My own methods have allowed me to do qualitative research without being entangled in the trappings of professional science. 

There is a price to pay for independence, and that is that professional science controls both public funding and access to the scientific journals.  I have been fortunate that my work has been received so well by the public at large.  I am often asked,”What do scientists think of your work?”  While I do have the support of many scientists, it is the average person that ultimately judges the work of science.  My goals are:


           TO CONTINUE MY WORK IN ANIMAL AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR.


            TO CONTINUE TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC WITH LECTURES, BOOKS,                   DOCUMENTARIES AND OTHER FORMS OF MEDIA.


            TO CONTINUE TO MAKE SCIENCE ACCESSIBLE AND TO INSPIRE YOUNG PEOPLE.


             TO PROMOTE THE CONSERVATION OF WILDLIFE HABITAT.


             TO WORK TO IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL ACCESS FOR PEOPLE WITH DYSLEXIA AND OTHER LEARNING DISABILITIES.