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What Do Salamanders, Texas And The OA Have In Common?

We Spoke To OA National Chief Jonathan Hillis And Found Out

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Can you count the patches? Meet Order of the Arrow national chief, Jonathan Hillis (Photo by Jonathan Hillis)

You’ve heard of the “King of the Jungle” and Lord of the Flies, but how about “Savior of the Salamanders”?

Jonathan Hillis

As National Chief there is always some public speaking to be done. (Photo from Jonathan Hillis)

No? Well, you might know him better as national chief.

Meet Jonathan Hillis, the 2011 national chief of the Order of the Arrow. He basically managed the entire SummitCorps project as the head youth leader.

But before he was elected as national chief, Hillis was named “Savior of the Salamanders.” So how does one earn such a title?

“Savior Of The Salamanders”

For Hillis, it all began with his Eagle Scout project.

As the son of a biology professor, Hillis has a certain affinity for environmental studies. He chose to develop conservation efforts for the highly endangered Barton Springs Salamander (Eurycea sosorum). Interestingly, his own father, Dr. David Hillis, discovered the species.

Hillis organized the restoration of habitat, which is only found in the Edwards Aquifer in Texas, his home state. Hillis began the project by removing silt and concrete from the springs, while also organizing the reconstruction of the drainage systems. To top it all off, he replanted native vegetation which helped hold the revitalized environment together.

As a result of his efforts, Hillis received the William T. Hornaday Award for conservation from the Boy Scouts of America, while also getting some local recognition, too.

The mayor of his hometown gave him the honorary title of “Austin Salamander Savior,” and when Hillis received the Vigil Honor, he received the Vigil name “Savior of the Salamanders.”

Have a Vigil name? Let us know in the comments below.

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