Age: 38 years so far to enjoy this incredibly quick lap around that stellar ball of fusion 93 million miles away.
Hometown & Years in the river valley: Born in Russellville at St. Mary’s, raised in Dardanelle, and I’ve lived in this area my entire 38 years.
Occupation: You know how they say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life? I teach advanced biology and Project Lead The Way Medical Interventions at Russellville High School.
Family: Mother Teresa Duncan, of Yell County; father Bill Duncan, a resident of Dardanelle; sister, Tracy Duncan in West Helena. And my constant companion Sybil, a somewhat antisocial mini schnauzer.
1. What is your favorite book?
My home bookshelf is sprinkled with tomes ranging from exotic cookbooks to political commentary to nonfiction science forays to Anne Rice novels. I’m currently reading “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir, the same author of “The Martian.” However, if I had to to narrow down the thousands of possibilities to one, it would have the be “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins.
2. Dog or cat?
If I had to choose, it would be dogs. If you asked my students, they would probably swear I despise cats, but the truth is, I love cats; what I despise are irresponsible cat owners who let their cats go unsupervised outside. Now that all that is out of the way, here’s my true choice: snakes. So yeah, if the question is cats or dogs, my answer is snakes.
3. What do you think is the most positive aspect of living in the River Valley?
Nature! I have spent my entire life in the River Valley. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who chose to live in the country and to let me explore the fields and woods behind the house pretty freely. We are within 15-30 minutes in almost any direction of getting out into nature. Yet, we are also within 1.5 hrs driving in just about any direction to visit bigger towns or cities.
4. What’s something no one would ever guess about you?
I was a cowboy. Like, literally, a tiny human cowboy at one point in my life. Up until I was maybe 10 or so, I competed in horse shows.
5. What is your favorite music genre and artist?
If I had to really narrow down a specific genre, it would be what I would affectionately call hipster — groups like Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Kishi Bashi, Tall Heights, etc. — but I definitely have a favorite artist. Well artists. The first would have to go to that goddess of the piano, Tori Amos. Essentially tying with Tori would have to be the Australian comedian, songwriter, and general genius Tim Minchin. I would warn the reader here, if you choose to check him out, be aware you may find one or more of your sacred cows injured.
6. What do you nerd out on?
I am a herpetophile. That is, a person who enjoys viewing, learning about, and in my case keeping reptiles. I could spend hours herping out in the wild for them, reading about them, watching videos about them, chatting with other crazy reptile folks online. I consider it a victory any time I can help people understand that snakes are friends, not enemies, and they are nothing to be scared of.
7. If you could change one thing about the River Valley, what would it be?
I would love to see a bike trail system here akin to the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock or the Razorback Greenway in Northwest Arkansas. The cycling community in Russellville is growing rapidly. We need protected places for people to ride, especially when they’re first starting out and aren’t comfortable riding on public roads.
8. Where is the one location in the River Valley you would tell a first-time visitor that they must go?
Short of recommending the outdoorsy places that draw people to the River Valley like Nebo, Petit Jean, and Magazine, I would say first-time visitors should visit Prestonrose Farm and Brewing. You literally drive to the middle of nowhere on Hwy 22 toward Paris, take a left on a dirt road, take another left on another dirt road, then drive into someone’s yard. There you will find ultra-local artisan food and beer.
9. Pizza, tacos, cheeseburger, or fried chicken?
I enjoy all of them from time to time, and we have lots of local places offering a plethora of dining options for each. But do you know what we don’t and have never had? Curry! Seriously, we need an Indian restaurant in Russellville. But I do also love pizza. Just wish Papa Murphy’s wouldn’t have closed.
10. What is your favorite quote? Could be from an inspirational person, could be an original.
“Science literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world who would exploit your ignorance.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
We are daily bombarded by myths and misinformation. Being scientifically literate like this changes the way you see the world. We use science to shine light into dark corners, and without it, they will remain dark and only pretend to be illuminated with wishful thinking and fanciful nonsense.