COLUMBIA — Forty minutes before the book signing began, there was already a line of 24 people. Within 20 minutes, the 24 grew to 46, and by 4 p.m., 71 fans eagerly flipped through the crisp pages of their newly purchased Jeff Corwin books.
"I've pretty much loved him since I was six," said Kate Finley, an MU freshman majoring in fisheries, wildlife and forestry.
The signing, which took place at University Bookstore from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, preceded Corwin's sold-out 7 p.m. lecture at Jesse Auditorium in Jesse Hall.
Corwin is most widely known as the executive producer and host of two shows on Animal Planet, "The Jeff Corwin Experience" and "Corwin's Quest." In 2007, he worked with CNN's Anderson Cooper in the environmental documentary "Planet in Peril."
Published in 2003, "Living on the Edge: Amazing Relationships in the Natural World" provided fans an opportunity to join the adventure as Corwin explored four different regions of the world: the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the southeastern savannah of Africa, the Costa Rican rainforest and the llanos of Venezuela.
The thick stack of Corwin's books slowly diminished as the line of fans, which consisted of an eclectic mix of people, remained steady through the hour.
"We spent $650 in cab fare to get here," said Amanda Roberts-Devaux, who turned 29 on Wednesday.
She and her husband, Gene Roberts, 43, are both avid Corwin fans and did not hesitate to make the trip east from Overland Park, Kan. The couple arrived in town midday and snagged the second spot in line.
"This is my birthday present," Roberts-Devaux said.
Mindi Wooley, a sophomore at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, bought a second copy just for the signing. When she heard that Corwin was coming to Columbia, the first thing she did was call her grandmother, a Columbia resident.
"We just flew in last night," Wooley said. "He's my idol."
As young and old filtered through the line, Corwin cracked jokes and warmly greeted each fan.
At Jesse Hall, Corwin played to a packed house. The event, hosted by the Delta Gamma Foundation Lectureship in Values and Ethics, drew such a crowd that tickets were being sought till the doors were closed.
The lecture mainly focused on Corwin's life experiences and also the importance of conservation. An open discussion followed the lecture.
Corwin stressed a new love for Missouri as he spoke of his recent visit to the state for a documentary looking at the mass extinction of the planet's amphibians.
He passionately spoke of the 95 percent disappearance of the hellbender salamander from Missouri's rivers and streams. He called the experience "affirming."
"You have my favorite salamander in your backyard," Corwin said.