My experiences as an undergraduate at Washington and Lee University, a liberal arts college in Virginia, greatly influenced my growth as a scientist and educator. During a field course on biodiversity in the Ecuadorian Andes, I had a formative experience with nature that would inspire my future career path: our group of students was the first to observe the existence (and copulation!) of a pair of cloud forest pygmy owls in that region. Besides inspiring me to pursue graduate studies in tropical biology, my undergraduate experiences made me realize how little we know about species diversity, how critical is the need to conserve tropical forests, and the effectiveness of active learning and inquiry. Aside from being a source of natural beauty and inspiration, tropical forests serve humanity in a multitude of ways, including carbon storage to mitigate climate change and as a source of medicinal compounds. As an educator and mentor, I aim to impart to students the importance of all ecological systems and their immediate relevance to our well-being.