Name: Emma Steigerwald

Age: 30

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:

Twitter: @EmmaSteigerwald

Website: https://emmacsteigerwald.wixsite.com/mysit

Instagram: @emma2steigerwald

Where do you work? University of California, Berkeley, CA

 Position: PhD candidate

How did you get there?  My interest in conservation arose from involvement in wildlife rehabilitation, mainly with reptiles and raptors, from an early age. It was inspiring to work with animals in such close quarters, but the work could also be frustrating: the fact that the problems populations face generally can’t be addressed through the rehabilitation and release of individuals is inescapable. Through undergraduate research with the mentorship of Drs Dan Funk and Seth Bordenstein at Vanderbilt University, I was introduced both to the possibilities of a career in ecology and evolution and to the rapidly advancing tools of genetics. I also had my first experience with herpetological research during those years, when I used a summer research stipend to contribute to a long-running capture-recapture project with Balearic lizards at the Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies in Spain. It was magical; I have never since worked somewhere that I was constantly covered by my study species, crawling all over me and licking my skin.

As I was graduating from Vanderbilt, I was fortunate to be granted a Keegan Traveling Fellowship, which broadened my view of global conservation immeasurably. I used my fellowship to work with conservation research and initiatives across ten countries, including assisting with freshwater biodiversity surveys in the Western Ghats and wrangling Hawksbill nest data in the Seychelles.

Coming to UC Berkeley, I struggled to decide on a research system where I could ask questions of relevance to both conservation biology and unanswered questions in evolutionary ecology. I was thrilled to learn about the remarkable amphibians of southern Peru’s Cordillera Vilcanota, which have colonized higher than any other amphibians in the world in the wake of deglaciation. This system inspired my dissertation work.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?  Finding funding for molecular work as a beginning graduate student was incredibly challenging. Many funding options available to grad students will only support fieldwork, or exclude ‘supplies’ as an acceptable budget item. Through intensive time investment searching online and asking other graduate students, I now have a long list of relevant small grants. An encouraging thought to keep in mind, if you are also in the situation where you are writing endless grant applications, is that all that writing experience will pay off! Your practice will help you write more quickly, compellingly, and coherently about your research.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?  For all of us who are passionate about this complex, beautiful planet we live on, I think it’s important to feel that the work we are doing is important—whatever that looks like for each of us personally. Fortunately, that’s pretty easy to do within the scope of herpetology. However, I do know people who committed themselves to projects, contented that they would be working in a herp-based system, and then regretted not waiting to find a project that aligned better with the questions that most motivate them.

To people from underrepresented groups: Be confident that what you are uniquely qualified to contribute is valuable! History clearly demonstrates that narrow perceptions of who should conduct science has resulted in blind spots in the science that is conducted. Actively seek out mentors who recognize your value—in grad school, a heathy mentorship relationship is so important to your wellbeing.

What’s your favorite herp?  I just saw my first false coral (Anilius scytale) in Manu, which was incredible. I love the adaptations of fossorial herps! However, though it may seem like a cop out, I am fond of my principal study species, the Marbled four-eyed frog (Pleurodema marmoratum). Their resiliency in dealing with the dehydrating winds, deep precipitation, and intense solar radiation at 5400 m.a.s.l. is mind-blowing, seeing how powerfully it affects my field team with our thermal gear, three-season tents, and -10˚C sleeping bags! If my lips crack and my hands blister, how is P. marmoratum doing it?! The more time I spend with them the more questions they raise. 

Why are you an HL member?  I am interested in meeting and working with fellow herpetologists across the world, want to help support the publication of Herpetologica, and appreciate the opportunity to apply for HL’s grad student awards.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?  Sampling in the snow. Though sampling Telmatobius marmoratus inside a tent is a bit cramped, it can be necessary with conditions at my field site, where we work alongside glaciers! Photo by Anton Sorokin.

  1. Name: Maureen A. Donnelly
  2. Age: 63 for another week
  3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: Twitter: @mo_donnelly; Instagram: @maureen.a.donnelly
  4. Where do you work? Florida International University, Miami, FL (a minority-majority university in the State of Florida system).
  5. Position: Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education (since August 2008) and Professor of Biology (hired in 1994, promoted to Professor in 2006).
  6. How did you get there? I had a job offer at the College of Charleston and CoC was going to hire someone like my husband. His institution wanted to retain him, so they created a position I could apply for.  I competed for the position, was selected by the faculty, and started on the Biscayne Bay Campus near the Broward County Line teaching General Biology II in the Fall of 1994. I was a spousal hire. I earned tenure and both promotions on my own.
  7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I faced a variety of challenges during my career. My first dissertation project was derailed and I considered quitting grad school altogether, but found a good study system in Oophaga pumilio at the La Selva Biological Station in northeastern Costa Rica.  The thunder of my postdoctoral research work was diminished when two senior researchers published work after attending my symposium presentation about my postdoctoral data. Once of them even included one of my figures! Kevin de Queiroz gave me the best possible advice to make sure you are never “scooped”—never talk about anything that hasn’t been accepted for publication. The university also threw down some crazy hurdles:  my first promotion raise was half that of my male colleague even though I had the stronger departmental vote, they wanted to evict me from my lab to make way for the med school so I leapt to the deanery to protect my lab and ensure my students at the time that they had a safe home to work in. The thought of moving was uglier than my preconceived notions of what life in the dean’s office entailed.
  8. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? The biggest advice I give to everyone is to “hang in there” if you really want an academic position.  You have to believe in yourself which can be a challenge.  You have to publish. Papers matter the most because that is the currency used in our business.  You have to strive for excellence in everything you do. You have to be curious to keep the research machine going, and you have to be patient as you train the next generation of scientists.  You have to be a real scholar—that means reading all the literature, even the old stuff, even the work of those you disagree with–so you can shape your logical argumentation from a strong foundation of understanding.  You have to be involved. You have to come up with solutions to problems. Some folks shy away from academic life because they see no financial gain in it but my economic path in life as a professor was very comfortable, and I wanted for nothing. Many move to administration for the monetary perks, but I jumped to administration to solve a crisis. I do not recommend administration because it is the world of ugly—nobody goes to the dean’s office to celebrate unless it is a commencement party or some other celebration. Fortunately, as an associate dean, I was able to continue mentoring my graduate students, I taught some graduate seminars, but administration is real work so my own fieldwork came to a screeching halt at the end May of 2009.  I have been lucky enough to tag along as a field assistant with my last batch of students since I gave up my own fieldwork in 2009.  I have been to Costa Rica to India to Singapore to Peru and back to Costa Rica. My students are my proudest achievements and I am grateful to my former boss who is now the Provost and our uber-boss.          For under-represented folks fascinated by amphibians and reptiles (which is nearly everyone but white males—most of whom are great herpers and great people who embrace diversity), herpetology is way more fun than anything you will ever do in medical, dental, or pharmacy school!  Way better than any business!  The scientific method has served scientists well for a very long time and it continues to be robust in guiding us towards new knowledge. For me, being a field biologist meant that work was always outside until the data crunching. The outside parts made the inside “repeat until dead” parts bearable.  I always figured out how to make the RUD elements “fun” to avoid going crazy.  Herps are the coolest study organisms going from my world view and I acknowledge how lucky I was to have a chance to make a career out of my interests.
  9. What’s your favorite herp? For all the right reasons—The Strawberry Frog Oophaga pumilio.
  10. Why are you an HL member? I wanted to be a herpetologist and part of doing that meant all three journals had to be part of my personal library. Membership in the three societies meant I was in possession of those journals. I cut my teeth as a society secretary with the Herp League (1996-2000) when Joe Mitchell was elected to serve as President-Elect. That experience prepared me when the ASIH came knocking and asked me to try and replace Bob Johnson after his untimely death in 2000. From June until December of 2000 I was secretary of two societies!
  11. Is there anything else you would like to add? Things are better than they were when I attended my first meeting in 1978 in Tempe, AZ.  Being a college student in the early 1970s was a different experience than it is today. I had just finished my first year as a MS student at CSUF and was trying to find a project in 1978. My first idea crashed because someone else was working on it, my second idea was “too big for a MS,” and I was flailing. I went to the meeting to support my colleague who was giving our paper on sleep in the Western Toad. After that meeting, during a field trip to Mexico, Jay Savage invited me to apply to his lab. I agreed I would do so if Proposition 13 passed in California. It passed resoundingly and I applied. I had to retake the GRE, I did well enough, and started in his lab in 1979 at USC. The sex-ratio in science was highly male-skewed; graduate school at USC was no different, and herpetology was no different. After my first meeting in Tempe, I was on a hiatus from meetings because of fieldwork in Costa Rica.  I started going to meetings regularly in 1985, and I was one of a handful of women (that included Meg Stewart, Linda Ford, Fran Irish, Barbara Savitsky) who kept coming to the meetings because the meetings are fun. I have always been an organismal biologist and the JMIH meetings have always celebrated the organisms. The development of the JMIH for our annual meetings was a wonderful step in our evolution as a consortium because we no longer have to reinvent the wheel every year.  From my perspective, generally speaking, “more is better” in terms of being able to obtain intellectual value from attending academic meetings. I am not a fan of separate meetings. Who can afford to attend two herp meetings a year? In spite of this periodic disruption of the force, I am very encouraged by the young members of the HL and her sister societies. They are doing great science and moving the field forward. They are socially and environmentally conscious and those attributes will make our meetings and our societies welcoming to a diversity of people going forward. I have great hope for our field–if we can all keep the planet alive!
  12. Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? “Frogging in the Tea” This photo was taken in Munnar, India while I was visiting my student Dr. Lilly Margaret Eluvathingal. Lilly’s field assistant Elango took the photo.
  1. Name: Bree Putman
  2. Age: 31
  3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: breeputman.com; @breeput
  4. Where do you work? Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  5. Position: Postdoctoral fellow
  6. How did you get there?

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved reptiles. I think it was Jurassic Park that started my fascination because I was first obsessed with dinosaurs. This prompted my parents to buy me pet geckos and snakes because, unfortunately, dinosaurs were not available for purchase. As an undergraduate in college, I fancied the idea of becoming a wildlife biologist, so I searched for research credit my junior year. Most professors’ work seemed so boring to me at the time (who wants to work with fruit flies?!), but then I found Dr. Emily Taylor who studied rattlesnakes and I applied to work in her lab. She accepted me and mentored me on my very first research project, which resulted in my first publication. I presented this work at the 2009 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Portland, Oregon, and this experience was life-changing because I met so many amazing people who were legitimately excited by my research and who gave me confidence. I began to imagine myself as one of them, someone who could be thrilled by scientific discovery and part of a community that engaged in thoughtful discussions on research ideas. After I returned home from the conference, I knew I would become a professor. My path has been unwavering since.

I went straight into graduate school for my Ph.D. immediately after graduating college. I worked under Dr. Rulon Clark at San Diego State University and Dr. Richard Coss at UC Davis. Graduate school allowed me to hone my skills as a researcher and introduced me to the world of mentoring undergraduate students (which has become one of my main passions). By studying rattlesnake-California ground squirrel interactions, I became a behavioral ecologist who specializes in predator-prey theory. As a postdoctoral fellow, I now use my expertise in this field to determine how fear of humans might predict animal responses to urbanization. I am currently applying to assistant professor positions, and I am hopeful that my ultimate career goal will be accomplished in the near future. I am doubtful that I would have chosen my current career path had it not been for Dr. Emily Taylor, my undergraduate advisor. She has been a very powerful mentor and role model for me, and I strive to become who she was for me to the students I mentor today.

  1. Name: Sara Ruane
  2. Age: 36
  3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @sara_and_snakes on twitter, website:sararuane.wordpress.com
  4. Where do you work? Rutgers University-Newark
  5. Position: Assistant professor
  6. How did you get there?


Well, I’ve always been pretty wild about animals, being out in nature, and especially catching snakes. I can remember going to the local library when I was in elementary school and taking out the same couple books they had on herpetology over and over and over (specifically Carl Kaufeld’s books like Snakes and Snake Hunting). I can also recall repurposing my uncle’s putting iron as a snake hook, despite only ever really seeing Storeria and Thamnophis locally. What really solidified my future was working with Al Richmond at UMass-Amherst as an undergraduate, where it was clarified to me that if you like herps, there are multiple career options available to you, not just something like being a veterinarian or working at a zoo, but professor jobs or museum jobs that have a research focus.  My senior year of college I applied to a bunch of herp related intern positions and ended up in Florida radio-tracking ratsnakes and cornsnakes for four months, as well as putting PIT tags into all snakes on the study site. It was a pretty awesome experience. I then did a master’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas, which involved radio-tracking Blanding’s turtles to gain some insight on their nest-site selection. But when I started looking at PhD options I knew with certainty I wanted to really focus my studies on snakes, and while I love ecology, I had so much enjoyed all the systematics classes I had taken over the years that I thought that might be time to switch gears to a new avenue to explore and focus on. I ended up working with Frank Burbrink at CUNY on just what I wanted, snake systematics, and continued that focus into a first postdoc at the AMNH, a second postdoc at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science, and ultimately what I do now as an assistant professor.

  1. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?


There is a lot of computer programming and math that was a pretty steep learning curve for me with respect to phylogenetic inference and at times that can be a struggle. But you just have to stick with it and figure it out in order to make progress!


  1. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?


In my experience, being persistent and working hard gets you the farthest in this field, sure you’ve got to be relatively smart but it’s the hard work of writing papers and getting them published that gets you a job-you need an actual product. In addition, you should take the different opportunities that present themselves to you and not be afraid of them! Even if they are a little outside your normal comfort zone. For anyone who feels like maybe they aren’t the typical herpetologist for whatever reason, I think people (at least the people I hang out with!) are very welcoming to anyone with a passion for these animals and want to make it their career focus. So if you bring that shared passion, you’re going to fit right in no matter who you are. That isn’t to downplay that there are struggles for underrepresented groups in this field, but it’s also important to emphasize that there is a shared common interest driving us all and that it can be used to help foster connections in all sorts of professional settings…so don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage.


  1. What’s your favorite herp?


Well, any snake is going to win out over anything else, but among snakes I typically like snakes with some sort of attitude when you catch them. Something I am really hoping to see on an upcoming trip to Europe is Malpolon, they seem incredibly cool with major attitude.


  1. Why are you an HL member?


I think being part of the societies is an important part of professional development and a great way to be involved at the meetings and direct how the future of the society is going to be played out, plus it’s a good way to meet people who have a shared interest. It’s also a great way to meet students and other early career people and possibly help them along their trajectory.


  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?


Snakes are the best! If you’re not sure what group you want to work on, there’s so much we don’t know about snakes and need more snake focused research!


  1. Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?


Sara having just grabbed a milksnake in Belize, 2018. Can she be any happier? (the answer is cleary no!).


Herpetologist Highlight

    1. Name: Julia E. Earl
    2. Age: 36
    3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: sites.google.com/juliaeearl/  @Julia_E_Earl
    4. Where do you work? Louisiana Tech University
    5. Position: Assistant Professor
    6. How did you get there? As with many of us, it took many steps to get where I am today. I did an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies, after which I took a year off doing field jobs.  I did one job at a National Wildlife Refuge catching swans with rocket nets, and the second was with USGS’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which gave me the experience and many techniques to be a successful amphibian researcher.  I then did my masters and Ph.D. one after the other.  I did two different postdocs over five years that mainly focused on quantitative research and then got my current position
  • Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I come from a privileged background, so my personal hardships were minimal.  I have struggled a few times being a woman in a male dominated field, but this occurred more when I moved into math biology research than in herpetology.  Dealing with this was so much easier, because I have had great mentors (particularly, Howard Whiteman and Ray Semlitsch) that were extremely professional and supportive.For me personally, the academic job market was the hardest part, which I went through while having a small child at home.  Applying for jobs in the current job market is like having a second full time job, and I was on the market for almost four years.  Part of my difficulty was likely because my research interests are fairly eclectic, so I don’t fit neatly into a job description, making it necessary for me to do 10 on-campus faculty interviews and many more phone interviews, each requiring extensive preparation.  I am an introverted person (not to say I don’t love people, because I do) and draw energy from working on my own and thinking, so meeting a new person every half hour for two days straight all the while projecting enthusiasm and confidence and keeping all the details of that position straight in my head was exhausting.  What was more exhausting was doing it all over again a month later, since interviews always seemed to come in groups.  I contemplated whether this much stress was worth it, but for me, contemplating a life where I didn’t get to pursue my own ideas and decide my research future was much more depressing, so I kept going and tried to keep a positive attitude and on the 10th on-campus interview, I got a job offer.  In retrospect, despite how hard all the interviews were, the job I got was in the top two best jobs for me out of all the interviews I did.
  • What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession?
  • What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?  Find a good mentor.  People say this a lot.  It is really important though.  It’s helpful to find someone with similar research interests and whose personality you can work with, but it’s also really important to have a mentor that will stand up for you and really listen to your concerns and help you deal with them whether those concerns are academic, personal, societal, or economic.  Great scientists and great herpetologists come from all different backgrounds.  A good mentor for you may not share your background but should be willing to consider what it might be like to have a different background and how to help you succeed in a world where that background may leave you at a disadvantage.  This is crucial to even the playing field and to help people with great ideas to contribute them to their chosen discipline.  Graduate school (and beyond) is hard professionally and psychologically, but if you’re driven and love herps, you should never have to doubt whether you belong in herpetology.  If you want to know if someone is a good mentor, ask their students (as many as possible past and present) lots of different questions and ask follow up questions if something sounds off.  Being prepared and doing your background research in all different areas is the best way to set yourself up for success.What’s your favorite herp? It’s really hard to pick a favorite, so I’ll pick two.  I love bird-voiced treefrogs, because their call is so musical.  It’s enchanting to hear a whole chorus of them in the swamp, where they’re really difficult to see.  I also love greater sirens, because they’re just so surprising: an aquatic salamander with 2 legs and gills that can survive in the soil under a pond after all the water is gone.  What’s cooler than that?
  • Why are you an HL member? I love the herp meetings and enjoy interacting with other people that are passionate about amphibians and reptiles!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add? I’ve been to a lot of meetings.  The herp meetings are my favorite, because it’s so fun to learn new things about organisms you love.  Also, they’re a great size: enough people to find talks I’m really interested in but small enough that I can get to know people.  I hope to help the herpetology meetings continue to be fun but also to be more welcoming to all people, because diverse scientists have diverse ideas which is better for everyone!
  • Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? This is me hanging out with a bullfrog statue at a nature center in Jefferson City, Missouri.
    1. Name: Lorin Neuman-Lee (go by Lori)
    2. Age: 34
    3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: weebly.com/ @CheloniaGirl/ cheloniagirl
    4. Where do you work? Arkansas State University
    5. Position: Assistant Professor of Herpetology
    6. How did you get there? As a freshman, I nervously asked Dr. Fred Janzen at Iowa State University if I could “sweep the floors.” He gave me a job and I started research with turtles. I fell in love with research and reptiles in particular. I received my B.S. in Biology and then a B.S. in English from ISU and worked with Dr. Stephen Mullin and Dr. Karen Gaines at Eastern Illinois University for my M.S. I loved physiology and herps, so I began working with Dr. Susannah French at Utah State University and had the opportunity to be mentored by her as well as other eminent herpetologists (Drs. Brodie, Savitizky, and Crump). After receiving my PhD, I had a baby and decided to wait a year before going on the job market, so I was a temporary instructor at USU. It ended up being the best decision I could have made because it meant that I was available when the job opening for a herpetologist AND immunologist opened up at Arkansas State University, which was the perfect size school and position for me. I applied, got the job, and am here now!

7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? Of course. I think everyone has their hardships that they must overcome. I personally struggled with mental health issues stemming from childhood trauma, especially in my undergraduate career. I was incredibly fortunate to have a strong support system and mentors that helped me succeed even when I was struggling. I have also had to navigate through many instances of individuals doubting my ability (including myself)! Again, I have amazing family, friends, and mentors that have helped me believe in myself.

8.  What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? Make sure that you find your “people.” It can be family, friends, colleagues. Always surround yourself with people that truly want the best for you and are going to support you. Pick mentors (no matter what stage of your career!) that will care about your goals and are dedicated to making sure you reach them. Remember that everyone else feels insecure sometimes and that you are not alone. And finally, believe in yourself. It may sound cliché, but it is true. I have a board by my desk with thank you notes, cards, drawings, acceptance letters and other things to remind me of my successes when I am focusing on my failures.

9. What’s your favorite herp? That’s the hardest question! I guess I have to say rough green snakes. They are so beautiful and cryptic.

10. Why are you an HL member? I joined HL because I felt that I could make a difference working in the society. I joined when I was a student and was the inaugural co-chair of the Student Committee. We started the E.E. Williams Grants and the student calendar.

11. Is there anything else you would like to add? I’ve been appointed the chair of the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee of HL and I’ve been so excited about ensuring that we improve the field for every individual. There has been overwhelming support for this committee and I’m really excited to be a part of HL’s next chapter!

12. Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Neuman-Lee finding a new field site in Utah, full of her study species (Thamnophis elegans) emerging from their hibernaculum!

Perhaps the most photogenic individual ever- a Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae)- with a very sweaty me.

Name: Dr Jodi Rowley
2. Age: 38
3. Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: www.jodirowley.com; @jodirowley
4. Where do you work? The Australian Museum and UNSW Sydney
5. Position: Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology
6. How did you get there? I didn’t know what I wanted to do from a young age. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do when I finished High School- back then it was a toss up between environmental science and graphic design. I’m so very glad that I picked environmental science, as that’s where I fell in love with frogs and decided that I’d try and do whatever I could to ensure to help stem the decline of amphibian populations. After my undergraduate degree and Honours research project in Environmental Science at UNSW Sydney I moved north to start a PhD at James Cook University. There I spent a lot of time stalking frogs in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, trying to understand why some species of frog were declining from the amphibian chytrid fungus and others weren’t. Upon completing my PhD, instead of taking a postdoc, I took the (academically stupid) option of moving to Cambodia to work for international NGO Conservation International. I thought it was there that I could make the biggest contribution to amphibian conservation and it really was the best decision I could have made- the fieldwork in the rainforests of North Queensland had prepared me at least a little for the expeditions in search of amphibians and reptiles Cambodia, China and Vietnam. The work I do has always been highly collaborative- I’m incredibly lucky that I have the amazing colleagues, and friends, that I do. Capacity building has always been, also a big focus of the work- I initially conducted amphibian research and conservation training courses in Cambodia and Vietnam, and mentoring students in the lab and the field, has always been important. After a couple of years based in SE Asia, I moved back to Sydney and have held a position there since- at first short-term contracts, and in my current position since 2016. While I maintain a research focus on SE Asia, I’m excited to be working more and more back in Australia. I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and the colleagues that have made it possible.

7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? The fieldwork was incredibly mentally and physically difficult at times (crazy weather, biting insects and steep terrain), but I’ve been very fortunate in my career.

8. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? It’s a cliché, but if you’re passionate about what you do, then you’ll have the grit to keep at it, even if things get incredibly tough. For anyone interested I entering herpetology, I recommend attending herpetological meetings – whether it’s your local group of herp enthusiasts or big national or international meetings. Being exposed to the current research, and meeting the people doing it, was really inspiring for me. I also recommend volunteering, so that you get an idea of what kind of research you love (and what you don’t!). And finally, try and find mentors in your field. I’ve been lucky enough to have had, and continue to have some amazing mentors in my career, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

9. What’s your favorite herp? I’m moderately obsessed with most herps, especially the amphibian kind. Growing up in a country without salamanders and newts, I am known to get a tad excited when I see a four-legged amphibian with a tail. However, I’ll go with Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae), a large, green flying (gliding) frog from southern Vietnam.

10. Why are you an HL member? Being a member of HL connects me with the herpetological community- through journals and meetings

11. Is there anything else you would like to add? Always keep in mind why you’re doing the research and conservation work you’re doing, and why it’s important. And when appropriate- tell people this! Whether it’s via scientific or public talks, blogs or social media.

12. Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Perhaps the most photogenic individual ever- a Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae)- with a very sweaty me.



 Name:Jennifer Deitloff
2Age: 37
3Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: https://lockhaven.edu/biologydep/faculty/JenniferDeitloff.html
Twitter: @SalamanderJenn
4. Where do you work? Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
5. Position: Associate Professor (newly promoted!)
6. How did you get there? My path to Lock Haven hasn’t been all cupcakes and unicorns. I have always been curious about the natural world, but growing up in Nebraska, there wasn’t much of it: a plot of woods in the middle of town or between corn fields. But, because of a couple great biology teachers in high school and biology professors in college, I became excited to pursue a career in biology. During interviews for graduate school, my future Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Dean Adams, infected me with his enthusiasm for salamanders, and I ended up in his lab studying behavior of salamanders at Iowa State University.
Following graduate school, I was a postdoc with Dr. Craig Guyer at Auburn University. Craig’s lab was conceptually diverse, as long as a herp was involved in the study. Because of this, I was able to work on a variety of herps and topics. Craig also supported my passion for teaching and for undergraduate research. I was able to gain experience as the instructor of record for several courses and allowing me to mentor over 15 students which resulted in several publications with undergraduate co-authors.

Following this postdoc, I had a second, less positive, postdoc and several adjunct positions for about 2 years. Through many applications, interviews, and 1 job offer that I said no to, I became more and more selective about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Mostly, this was because it was important to my husband that we live in an area with family and community support. It was hard for me to accept this “request” when applying for jobs, but now I am very thankful for his stubbornness in this regard. As it turned out, I was able to get a job in my husband’s hometown with family and numerous family friends nearby. I cannot imagine being able to do my job or be involved at the level that I am without this support.

7. Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?  (1) It was very difficult to admit that I couldn’t live in the middle of “nowhere” just for a job. While I agree that to be in academia, you need to be willing to move and to move several times, we also have to realize the importance of having a community of supportive people who love us. I sincerely love my job, I love where I live, and I enjoy spending time with my family; thankfully I am able to mesh all these things together because of making the choice to live near family support.

(2) I’ve made the commitment (over and over) to be myself and stand up for what I believe in. I’ve had to put myself at risk to do so in many situations and have repeatedly been advised to lay low or be quiet by well-meaning people. None of us should have to endure work place abuse, and, I believe, it is the bystanders (especially if coming from a place of power) that need to speak up, not the individuals enduring any form of abuse/bias. I have been both the victim and the bystander speaking out. As the former, I was not believed or told I was being too sensitive. As the latter, people were more willing to listen and positively respond.

8. What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?   Here’s my answer for the first part of this question: Getting degrees in science is hard (emotionally and physically); getting a faculty position in biology requires persistence, motivation, hard-work, and, more often than not, sacrifice. I have also had luck in finding the right “fit” in my current job. If you can persist, it’s worth it; if your passion shifts or the pursuit of this profession becomes not worth it for you, there is no shame in find something else that you will love and be happy doing.

To answer the second part of this question (but not really answer it): Every institution in the United States is set up to dramatically and disproportionately benefit certain demographics (being white, male, able-bodied, straight, and/or cis-gendered, etc). My advice is for people who can identify with one of those words: use your privilege to help those without that privilege. This can be done on an interpersonal basis (let someone know their behavior/comment/bias, etc, is not acceptable) and on an institutional basis (join or create groups at your institution/place of work to address these issues, especially for groups that you do not belong to). It’s not enough for us to just act better ourselves, we need to be better allies to other underrepresented groups.

To actually answer the second part: If you are someone who belongs to an underrepresented group, I encourage you to find mentors and support people who do not behave in a way that implies that these identities seems like a detriment in your field.

9. What’s your favorite herp? Salamanders in general are really great; the green salamander, Aneides aeneus is probably my favorite, but I get pretty excited about all of them!

10.  Why are you an HL member? I’ve primarily been a member of HL and other herp societies for the reduced cost of going to annual meetings. The annual meetings for me have been great to create new connections and collaborations as well as to reconnect with friends that I do not get to see very often. I also enjoy the benefit of being able to publish for free or at reduced costs because I do not typically have grant or institutional money to support publication. Since starting my current position, being a member has allowed me to have access to journal articles because our library doesn’t have subscriptions to many academic journals.

11. Is there anything else you would like to add?  Because this is to highlight diversity in Herpetology, I want to add that outright prejudice as well as unconscious bias related to gender or gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or disability needs to be discussed openly and addressed constructively in our field. That means even looking at myself on a regular basis and figuring out what my biases are so that I can work to improve myself in the hopes of encouraging other people, like me and unlike me, to contribute to science and herpetology, specifically. I hope we can all work together to increase inclusivity and diversity in the year(s) ahead.

12.  Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? This is a photo of me doing field work in Costa Rica while I was 6 months pregnant with my first child (2011).


Name: Kristen Cecala

Age: 32

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: 


Twitter – @CecalaKK

Instagram – @CecalaKK

Where do you work? Department of Biology, Sewanee: University of the South

Position: John D. MacArthur Assistant Professor

How did you get there?

I conducted a ton of undergraduate research at Davidson College. From there, I was fortunate to work for USGS ARMI for a summer before beginning a PhD program at the University of Georgia. My graduate work was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship that I believe was awarded in part because of the extensive undergraduate research experiences I had. Focusing on research and developing teaching skills while at UGA helped me when I went on the job market looking for teaching-focused positions. I returned to Davidson College to complete a year-long postdoctoral experience where I supervised undergraduate students in research and taught a half teaching load. That professional experience in the context of a small liberal arts college was critical to getting a position at Sewanee. In terms of being on the job market, I applied for any and all positions and was fortunate that this position was available. Though I work with amphibians, it was important that I was able to market myself as using amphibians in the context of population and freshwater ecology. For a small liberal arts college, it is also important to thoughtfully articulate how undergraduates fit into your research program.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

I’ll mention two particular experiences that are related to being young and female in science.

In grad school, I spent a month setting up an experiment on private property that required me to be in the field tracking salamanders all night. While I had permission to work on site, the property manager set up game cameras at my transects and periodically parked me into the property so that I would have to go to his house to ask him to move his vehicle while making uncomfortable small talk. Despite that, it was an ideal study site, and I set up an experiment requiring constant monitoring overnight. As I was moving among my transects, I found evidence that someone else was currently following me without making their presence known. I immediately left the site, and when I returned in the morning, the experiment that I had planned and constructed was ruined. While I wish that this was an isolated incident, I suspect that many field biologists can recall similar scenarios or other encounters in the field that have made them uncomfortable. I now always make sure that my students know that their safety is more important than their data, and try to adhere to strict field safety protocols.

I was also unprepared for some of the challenges of being a new, young, and female faculty member. Students and even other faculty members questioned my expertise for my first few years. Besides harassment that I received from students as a TA, students can also fall into a trap of treating you more like a friend rather than someone who deserves respect. Navigating the line between being compassionate and empathetic with being firm and setting boundaries is difficult. It can also be hard the first few times your comments are ignored, talked over, or attributed to someone else. I think it is important to acknowledge those events and make sure that it doesn’t happen to others by taking the initiative to amplify the ideas and comments of others who are typically overlooked.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

I encourage students to be open to a diversity of opportunities. Students are capable of making their experience matter – don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is only one way to achieve a goal. A Sewanee student recently gave our first-years the advice “Don’t change to match this institution, change the institution to match you.” I love that advice because while some students may face more obstacles than others, you make your own experience. Whether you look for obstacles or opportunities for change can transform how you and others move through academia, and if we aren’t changing the system that was designed to benefit the few, we aren’t making the system better for all.

What’s your favorite herp?

Dusky salamanders are like potato chips – you can’t pick just one – especially when they all look alike!

 Why are you an HL member?

I think it is really important to cultivate communities – especially once you begin to lead your own program. Small institutions like mine simply can’t support the diversity of ecologists as large institutions, and I miss having that community that challenges and encourages scholars to consider different perspectives and opportunities. Having peers to critique your work and commiserate with is good for me, and I enjoy the opportunity to interact with researchers who share my interests.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Photobombing Nazca Boobies in the Galapagos!



Name: Nicole Valenzuela

Age: 51

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:

URL http://www.public.iastate.edu/~nvalenzu/

Where do you work?

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Iowa State University


Professor (Full)

How did you get there?

I started my Bachelor’s in Biology at the University of Los Andes in Colombia, thinking that I wanted to become a plant geneticist. I soon discovered that plants were not my calling after taking Botany the first semester. In my junior year I studied the behavior of newborn brown capuchin monkeys at the International Primatological Center at La Macarena, and that semester of fieldwork in the jungle changed my life, but I learned that behavior was not my calling either. After graduation I worked for two years for the Puerto Rastrojo Foundation that did conservation biology in the Amazonian jungle, and I was assigned to develop a project to study temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) in the endangered giant Amazonian river turtle (Podocnemis expansa). It was then that I found my passion and became a budding herpetologist. I went to SUNY at Stony Brook with a Fulbright scholarship where I completed my Master’s and PhD working on TSD and ecological genetics of P. expansa, in the lab of Charlie Janson (who studies  evolutionary ecology of primates!). During my PhD I married another budding herpetologist and we came to Iowa State University as postdocs in 1999, where I did a teaching postdoc for a living while working with Fred Janzen on his long-term study of turtle reproductive behavior. I became Affiliate Assistant Professor a year after (2000) so that I could apply for funding as an independent researcher, and became an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Associate Scientist (2001-2004) as a spousal accommodation when my husband got a tenure-track job. During that time, I retrained myself in developmental biology to follow my love for genetics and sex determination so that I could study the evo-devo of TSD and GSD (genotypic sex determination) in painted and spiny softshell turtles. I finally started my tenure-track job in 2004 (assistant 2004-2010, associate 2010-2017, full 2017-present). And through those years I followed parallel questions that opened up from our research first on evo-devo, plasticity, macroevolution, and later on the evolution of sex chromosomes, genomes, and most recently, dosage compensation in turtles.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

I faced multiple challenges during my career. Some were financial, such as working to pay my tuition as an undergraduate, and obtaining grants to fund my very expensive doctoral dissertation because my advisor could not provide funding for my research. And coming from a primatology lab made me somewhat of an ‘outsider’ herpetologist at the beginning since I had no turtle biology mentors in my academic pedigree, although I was also free of prejudice against any one particular school of thought and thus open to good ideas whichever their provenance, which turned out to be much more important. While there is always a risk of getting scooped of your ideas if you share unpublished projects at seminars or conversations (particularly early in your career) and I learned to be more cautious, I did not let this risk derail my research trajectory and I continue to collaborate with a variety of people openly, as I believe this is more fruitful for science. Motherhood was also a challenge professionally because it slowed down my academic productivity for a few years, and while I later realized that the level of productivity I thought was needed to obtain a tenure-track job was in part self-imposed, the change was stressful at the time even though I was splitting all parental duties equally with my spouse. Today, we have some mechanisms to better deal with this transition, such as extending the tenure-clock for new mothers and fathers.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Work on something you are passionate about. If you are starting as a graduate student and chose herpetology because you love it, you will excel at your job and will be able to navigate the challenges and dull moments that any PhD and research career has. Find good peers and mentors to create a support group that will help you through the rough times and challenge you to become a better scientist by being critical of your work in a friendly and constructive manner. And ask for help from that support group within your program, institution, or elsewhere if you cannot solve things by yourself. Read, read, read, constantly and broadly. Be critical of established dogma: put all ideas to the test, no matter where they come from or how long they have been held as established. If they are good ideas, they will stand your test, but if they are not, you may contribute to changing a paradigm. Learn the natural history of your creature even if your work does not have a field component directly. Do not divorce ecology from evolution or evolution from ecology, they are inseparable in nature and should be to you too. Attend scientific meetings where you will get to see where the state-of-the-art of the field is, to be energized by the sharing of ideas, and to meet people that may be future collaborators, mentors, reviewers of your grants or publications, or them of yours. And thus, treat everyone with respect, no matter if they are first year students or retired. Do not let your career kill your personal life, nor your personal life kill your career: you are allowed to find a balance between both, and it is ok if this requires relying on your support group. And if you are from any underrepresented group and are contemplating turning your fascination for herpetology into a career, please do, we need you! The more diverse scientists are the stronger science is.

What’s your favorite herp?

Turtles in general, and of all the turtles I work with there is still a special place in my heart for my first herp love, Podocnemis expansa.

Why are you an HL member?

I wanted to support all the herp societies that participate in JMIH, and HL is an important member.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to see the young generations help steering the HL and sister societies in a direction of inclusivity, attracting diverse members who can help strengthen the research excellence that we strive for but who felt discouraged to become or remain members. The energy, open mindedness, and creativity of the younger generations is also needed to translate all the wonderful research into the effective conservation of herps.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Getting the next generations excited about herpetology.


Name: Amaël Borzée

Age: 29

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:
Website: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Amael_Borzee2
Twitter: @amarzee
G: amarzee

Where do you work? Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Position: Post-doctoral researcher

How did you get there? Here, currently means Seoul, South Korea, although it has been a long trip. I started being interested in herps as a kid living in Madagascar and followed my family back to France for high school, where I also started my undergrad. From there I moved to Wales, UK, through an Erasmus exchange, and as I did not want to go back to France I joined a Master degree program in Switzerland – where I started working on treefrogs, almost 10 years ago! After some time being uncertain about what to do next, and a bit of work in the rainforest of Ecuador and some work in London, I worked for the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea, from where I found a job as research assistant in Ewha W. University in Seoul. I worked there for a year before starting my PhD in a different university. After graduating, I was hired as post-doc in the same lab in Ewha W. University and it is a pleasure to be back. While I have been working on the behaviour and conservation of the Suweon Treefrog for quite a few years, I am now working on the ecophylogeography and conservation of North East Asian Amphibians.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?


Changing systems always come with a long list of interesting points to overcome, and while I was studying the main problem was to convert my grades, because France, the UK, Switzerland and South Korea definitively don’t use the same system! Getting degrees officially translated was also a bit of troubles, but that is most of it for the difficulties linked to the movements between universities. One of the main hardships to overcome was to adapt to different places and working styles. There are some lab-to-lab differences of course, but these are minor. The cultural differences between countries were the most challenging points. But I managed to take advantage of it, and I don’t think I would have been able to work as much in Europe as I do in Korea without hearing some questions, while it is almost unlikely praise in Korea.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Something helpful is to do what you like, wake up in the morning being happy to go work, and enjoy all of it. In this field it also means enjoying being out in the field in warm spring evening when you friends are out enjoying other part of life, or under pouring cold rain when most people are warm indoor. If you like your research, then you will work harder and longer than others, and that may be a requirement to get one of the few jobs available in the field. Another important point is to be open to opportunities, where ever they are, and even if it means changing country.

What’s your favorite herp?

I’m a big fan of Hylid treefrogs in general, and even if they tend to look like each other, I’ve a weakness for the Suweon Treefrog (Dryophytes suweonensis).

Why are you an HL member?

I believe in being part of something larger than myself, that has an influence on the world around, in this case on the conservation of amphibians.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Follow your hobbies, but keep protocols in mind, that will bring you to good research ideas.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

HDF tracking of Korean treefrogs in Paju, Republic in Korea.


Name: Kinsey Brock

Age: 30

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: kinseybrock.com / @kb_kinsey / @kbkinsey

Where do you work? University of California, Merced (the newest UC and a Hispanic Serving Institution with more than 70% first generation college students!) @ucmerced #UCMerced

Position: D. Candidate

How did you get there?

I grew up on a farm in Michigan, where I spent most of my hours outside playing games we made up in the woods and corn fields with my friends. We’d happen upon frogs and snakes, but back then I didn’t even know herpetology was thing – I just lived for being outside, day and night. The outdoors was a natural playground that changed with the seasons, and was really where all the interesting stuff was happening.

Choosing a university was easy for me – I wanted to go somewhere that was big, had endless opportunities, and where I could pursue all of my interests in art, music, science, and literature. I enrolled at the University of Michigan initially as an Art & Design student, but upon meeting my mentor Professor, Joe Trumpey, everything changed. Joe was an artist, a farmer, a scientist, and someone I could identify with and trust. He fanned my flame for nature and sparked a curiosity in me that motivated my decision to dual-enroll as an art and biology student. I found my niche at the interface of art, literature, and science in the Program in the Environment at Michigan, taking coursework in environmental justice, conservation biology, and field ecology. But it wasn’t until my second year as a biology student that I had my first herpetological encounter.

I was accepted into an Eco-Explorers field sketching trip to Madagascar, led by mentor professor Joe, where students spend a month camping and working on art and service projects. In the first hour after landing in Antananarivo, my life changed. While walking through a garden and admiring the flowering trees I noticed odd movement and felt a presence. Then there it was, one clear eye pointed right at me. Even though I’d never seen one in real life, it was like I had known it forever and swiftly reached for it without a second thought. It was a Carpet Chameleon, a little rainbow with a big mouth and freaky feet living and breathing in my hand. What a wild thing! I spent the rest of the trip on a quest for herps: chameleons, geckos, boas, all of them extremely rare and unique to Madagascar. I was transfixed by their color, the way they moved, and diversity of habitats they occupied. How could all of these wildly different-looking animals live on the same island? How could they fit so perfectly in their environment? How can I spend the rest of my life among wild things and figuring out why they look the way they do?

I left Madagascar with an insatiable thirst for all things reptilian. I got a job in the Herpetology Division at the University Museum of Zoology, and spent many hours prepping and caring for specimens and meeting herpetologists visiting from all over the world. I decided to stay at Michigan for my master’s degree because I found an advisor working on lizards in the Greek islands – a perfect combination of my interests! I spent two summer field seasons hopping around the Cyclades islands trying to figure out the ecological and evolutionary drivers of different anti-predator behaviors in lizards. Behavior was interesting, but as I moved through the Aegean islands studying different populations of lizards, I got curious about the variety of their color and pattern. I contacted several advisors about studying color evolution for my Ph.D. (a big switch from behavior!), but once I met my current advisor, Dr. Danielle Edwards, I knew I had study with her. She was going to let me acquire the skills I needed to pursue any project I wanted, and my dream research was to go back to the Aegean islands and figure out why lizards on some islands are extremely colorful and behave differently than lizards on other islands. Sounds simple (and I’ve simplified it somewhat), but is in fact quite challenging and requires one to be an explorer, ecologist, geneticist, photographer, phylogeneticist, statistician, savvy kayaker, field team leader, schlepper of heavy and awkward objects, and writer. It also helps if you speak Greek. I am never bored.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

Being a first generation college student from a lower socioeconomic background was the first big hurdle I faced – and it hit me the moment I stepped foot on campus as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. I felt out of place. I didn’t know what to expect or how to live on my own in a “city” and everything up to that moment came pretty easy for me socially and academically. But the move from activities and worksheets in small classrooms with the people I grew with to analyses of tomes on Art in Theory, 300-person chemistry lectures, and a maxed out 18-credit schedule hit me hard. To learn how to learn, I made study group friends with upperclassmen in the Michigan Marching Band. To survive economically, I learned the financial aid system with help from staff and got hooked up with jobs to make ends meet in art studios, bands, and museums with help from my mentor professors.

Academia and other male-dominated fields like herpetology can be a tough place for women and minorities (social, gender, ethnic, etc.) to thrive. I’ve been underestimated, overlooked, mansplained, taken advantage of, excluded, harassed, and ignored in academia and during fieldwork simply for being who I am. Finding community, allies, and advocates helps. Get involved with societies, organizations, and individuals at the next professional level who make diversity, equity, and inclusion their mission. Spread the word about initiatives and opportunities with your community. As you move up, bring others with you.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

When I became interested in herpetology, I researched local opportunities at my university and in my state that would get me into the field and interacting with herps in their environment. Check out university websites for professors who are studying herps you’re interested in – maybe one of their graduate students needs a field assistant! Look up your local Department of Natural Resources, or do some online investigating if your town has a local herpetologist. Zoological museums are another great place to get involved.

My advice for underrepresented folks interested in herpetology or science in general: Find your people and create community wherever you go, they make all the difference.

Develop a diverse network of mentors. You can’t expect one person to be  everything for you, and you’ll gain a wider perspective by engaging with a variety of folks. If you meet a professor who is an excellent writer, develop a relationship with them founded on giving each other feedback on writing or just chatting about the process. If you find someone at the next professional level who is really good at listening and willing to give personal advice? Cultivate that. Maybe they study fly brains and you study lizards, that doesn’t matter. If you like the way someone thinks, try to find a way to work with them. Mentors don’t have to be herpetologists to help you become a herpetologist. The mentor map is a fantastic resource for identifying your network and mentorship needs.

In addition to forming mentor relationships with people above you, find yourself colleagues at your level who will support you and who you’ll support in return. Seek out those individuals who collaborate, who will proofread a grant, who share your passions, who will be there to reassure you when it seems impossible, and be that person for them. Creating community within my graduate group has brought me joy and has been great for my mental health.

What’s your favorite herp?

My pet leopard geckos, Despina and Athena, have my heart. But my favorite non-familial herp is the lizard that made me a herpetologist – the Carpet Chameleon, Furcifer lateralis. I could stay forever watching their conical eyes dart around while they slowly move through the trees. I will study chameleons one day.

Why are you an HL member?

I joined HL to contribute to an intellectual community of folks interested in studying and protecting herps. As a graduate student, Herp League also provided access to research grant opportunities, which are important for students doing field biology.

The events that transpired at JMIH2018 were unacceptable, and unfortunately not uncommon for women in science. However, I’ve decided to remain a member of HL not because I approve of everything the organization has done in the past, but because I want to be a part of the change to make herpetology accessible and safe for everyone. Visibility matters, and I’m excited that HL has been quick to make positive change by profiling HERpers. There is more work to be done, and I hope to see more privileged herpetologists (ie: White, CIS, men-folk) actively engage in making herpetology more inclusive.


Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Not the most recent (or highest quality) photo, but perhaps the most significant. Me and that Carpet Chameleon I snagged in Anatananarivo eight years ago.


Name: Austin Carriere

Age: 21

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagramwww.austheshooter.com / @austheshooter / @_bigaus

Where do you go to school? What is your position (undergrad, grad student, etc)?: The University of Oklahoma. Undergraduate researcher (Junior)

What are your interests (research, career, or hobbies)?Herpetological Field Research (preferably snakes) and Photography (wildlife, sports, portraits).

Are you working on any research projects, and if not, would you like to?:  I am not currently working on an research project, but I am interested in starting a new project with the right guidance. I have previous experience with research project, as I was a student researcher during a NSF-funded research expedition in the Philippines, studying the native genus of burrowing skinks, Brachymeles. I also got the opportunity to participate in a REU, sponsored by the Organization of Tropical Studies, in which I conducted my own research project, studying intersexual differences of behavior and activity in the water anole, Anolis aquaticus. With all of that experience, I believe science communication is a field that I am interested in looking into for new projects.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome in academics or in research? I am actually going through my particular hardship right now. My hardship is actually personal. I am currently in a stage of deciding what I plan on doing for the rest of my life. As grad school looms, I have to decide if that is my next step in life, if I can incorporate my love of photography into my research, or if photography will become my sole priority. There are many decisions we have to make as scientists, especially when it comes to future plans. Whether its deciding on a new project or which graduate school to attend, it’s important to make the decision that is best for you and not to please anyone else.

What advice do you give other students interested in joining a lab? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?: For students joining a lab, I highly suggest doing your research and finding a lab but also a mentor that you can connect with and would help continue to fuel your passion of research. Find a lab that doesn’t just “look good” but a lab that has successful projects that YOU find interesting. Coming from an underrepresented group, you will always be behind, you will always have a disadvantage, but I recommend you work so hard that others can’t ignore your work and your work ethic. Focus on bettering yourself and don’t compare yourself to the people around you. I think we, as members from underrepresented groups, often find ourselves trying to match the members of the majority. I feel that it is more important to make our own names especially in a field like this, where successful minorities in this field become influential and an inspiration to other minorities.

Have you ever attended a professional conference? What did you enjoy about the experience and what was challenging? What advice would you offer to other students about your experience?: I have! I attended the 2018 SACNAS Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I presented a poster presentation and was a full participant at all the events. It was an amazing experience as it was my first biological conference but it was challenging as it was a little overwhelming because as a young student, you begin to question your future, since your eyes are opened to so many possible future opportunities. To any students seeking advice I say, connect with as many people as possible and absorb all the information possible. You have the opportunity to interact with great people and you never know, you could come in contact with your future advisor/employer.

What are your future goals (career or otherwise)?As I look toward my future, I am hoping to one day combine my two passions (photography and herpetology) and become a traveling photographer that highlights my own and others’ herpetological field research.

What’s your favorite herp?Easily Atheris squamigera, the Bush Viper is one of most visually appealing but still scary animals on the planet.

Is there anything else you would like to add?I am at the University of Oklahoma, but I am originally from New Orleans, LA (the best city in the world) and as a sports photographer and big sports fan, just want to give a shoutout to the home teams as important games are coming up! Geaux Saints! Geaux Pelicans! Geaux Tigers! Boomer Sooner!

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?During an REU in Costa Rica, I researched the behavior of my now favorite lizard species Anolis aquaticus, the water anole. My first individual research project!



Name: Kirsten Hecht

Age: 36

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: giantsalamanders.org (Website); @HellbenderHecht (Twitter)

Where do you work? School of Natural Resource & Environment/University of Florida

Position: Graduate Assistant

How did you get there? I first came to UF to study under Max Nickerson for my Masters degree because I wanted to keep working with Hellbenders. I ended up staying for my PhD because I valued the interdisciplinary nature of my program and wanted to dive deeper into understanding how the socio-economic system impacts conservation.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? My PhD has been full of ups and downs. I was newly married when I started my Masters degree and become unexpectedly pregnant. I was very lucky on the timing of everything so it didn’t interfere with classes or field work. I had a supportive mom with a flexible career who came to the field with me to watch my son.  Ultimately my surprise gift didn’t affect my progress much during my Masters degree. In fact I was held up more by flooding in my study site! My husband and I eventually parted ways but my mom stayed on as a support system as I started my PhD.  Sadly, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer after I started my PhD and passed away two years ago. Since I don’t feel it’s safe to bring my son into the field with me quite yet, I had to completely change my study focus. I went through some hard times and then an identity crisis but kept on the best I could.  Thanks to an awesome support system and amazing mentors at my university, I eventually found a way to combine my new interests in the human dimensions side of conservation and scientific public engagement. I’m excited about my new focus and hope to make these research topics more normalized in our field.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? Breaking in for anyone can be difficult. It’s often about who you know and having experience, so do your best to get involved as soon as you can and meet people. Some ways to start are getting involved with research as soon as possible, volunteering at a local institution, or getting to know your undergrad professors. There are a lot of unpaid internships or even opportunities you must pay to do at entry level, but if you are like me and don’t come from a family with money or have other obligations those can be impossible to do. There are paid opportunities or at least ones that provide living arrangements out there, so keep looking. I did my first internship working at the Good Zoo in Wheeling, West Virginia. They provided housing and I also worked part-time as a janitor at the zoo to pay for basic living expenses.  Also, its normal to get a lot of rejections as you are starting out so just keep at it.

For folks from underrepresented groups, I won’t lie and say it’s always going to be easy. I’ve had my share of hardships, but I know I have some things easy comparatively. More and more white women are entering the field, thanks to those that paved the way. Even though we are still working on evening things up in higher up positions and working to change things in the broader culture of herpetology, white women aren’t here alone anymore. Other groups face many more struggles.  Herpetology has a long way to go with recruiting and retaining members from all underrepresented groups. We are just starting to see the organizations working to make some actual changes in the system, and I’m hopeful. In the meantime, put yourself first so you don’t burn out. Find a support system who understands the struggles you face. Don’t feel obligated to do any more than you need or want to. There is often a pressure on members of underrepresented groups in all fields to not only do more than others to prove yourself, but also to take on the work of fixing the issues in our organizations.

What’s your favorite herp? This may be a surprise since I’m a salamander nerd and love giant salamanders, but my all-time favorite animal is the Komodo Dragon.

Why are you an HL member? I’m a member for two main reasons. 1) As a student, there are many benefits of membership for minimal money. These include grant opportunities, journal access, workshops, and networking opportunities at meetings. 2) I think it’s important to be involved in professional societies in general, so the societies have the administrative and financial support to continue, but also because the members can help shape the trajectory of the field.

Is there anything else you would like to add? We really need all hands-on deck in herpetology right now, both for science and for conservation.  Bringing in people from different backgrounds helps advance the field by bringing in new perspectives and ideas. Losing anyone from herpetology because they don’t feel welcome is a detriment to the field and to the herpetofauna we love and study.  Fixing the complex issues going on is not going to be easy. It will be hard and uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. We are going to have to take a hard, critical look at our institutions and make changes in our structures and culture to address these things. We also can’t pin this on those already struggling in our field. I’m encouraged that we’ve started on this hard process and hope we continue.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Since it’s Halloween season I figured it’d be fun to share a photo of me and my son dressed up as different stages classes of my favorite study organism, the Hellbender.

Version 2

Name: Jessica Hua

Age: 31

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: http://jhua13.wixsite.com/jhua

Where do you work? Binghamton University

Position: Assistant Professor 

How did you get there?

Undergraduate: Southwestern University (Biology/Kinesiology) Advisor- Dr. Ben Pierce.

Graduate (PhD): University of Pittsburgh; Advisor- Dr. Rick Relyea

Postdoc: Purdue University; Advisor- Dr. Jason Hoverman

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I feel very fortunate to be in the position that I am in. I entered into undergraduate studies primarily for sports (I played basketball). I chose my major (biology) because I thought being a medical doctor was the only career path. Part of the medical path was to obtain research experience. As a Junior, I attempted to find a medical-related research position but compared to my peers, I was slower to apply. As a result, the only position left (lucky for me) was a position with Dr. Ben Pierce examining the effects of salinity on amphibians. I had never even seen an amphibian outside of the zoo prior to this experience! Truly all I cared about prior to this experience was med school and basketball- yet Ben still gave me a chance! Needless to say, this research experience changed my career path. After graduating from Southwestern, I pursued a PhD with Dr. Rick Relyea examining the effects of contaminants on amphibians. This experience opened the doors to a lot of different research directions for me and is when I became an HL member for the first time. After graduating with my PhD, I did my post doc with Dr. Jason Hoverman at Purdue University on amphibian disease ecology. Now I am an assistant professor at Binghamton University hoping to introduce students here in NY to herpetology and continuing the legacy my former advisors started by mentoring future herpetologists!

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? For someone inside and outside of underrepresented groups interested in my profession, my biggest piece of advice is to stay open, curious, and relentless in pursuing your goal. As a researcher/professor, I feel like I have the best job in the world! Every day is unique! In one day, I could be in my office in the morning then out catching herps later that night! I get to interact with incredible people and ask questions that excite me. 

What’s your favorite herp?

I have got two favorites: Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) and Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum)!

Why are you an HL member?

I am a herpetologist, I care about the conservation of amphibians, and I enjoy attending the meetings and catching up with colleagues from around the world!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Confluence of Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers in beautiful Binghamton, NY.


Name: Mariana Morando

Age: 47

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:


Instagram: morandomariana

Where do you work? Grupo de Herpetología Patagónica (GHP)Instituto Patagónico para el Estudio de los Ecosistemas Continentales (IPEEC)
Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT)
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)

And (Y también)

Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, Sede Puerto Madryn


CONICET Principal Researcher and Professor at Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, where I teach Evolution for Biology students.

Patagonia San Juan Bosco, donde enseño Evolución para alumnus de Biología.

How did you get there?

To be a CONICET researcher one must have a PhD and apply for the job within one of the research institutes located all over the country. There is one nationwide opportunity per year and the selection procedure takes 1 year. Then, it takes another year to finally start on the job. Usually all of this is done while working as a postdoc.

To be a Prof at the UNPSJB, one has to start teaching as an undergraduate assistant, lab assistant or any other type of lower level assistantship. After many years and with some luck one can get a Prof position, which can be with a minimum position (8hs per week), partial position (16hs a week), or full position (45hs a week). Usually it doesn’t matter how many hours the position is, the responsibilities are the same. Full Professor positions are very scarce and most of the time any professor does the same job even with the minimum wage. I started as a student TA during my last year as an undergraduate at Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, where I got my Licenciada en Ciencias Biológicas degree. At the UNPSJB I started as a TA in Genetics in 2004, and I did this job for 10 years until I made Prof in Evolution. I love teaching Evolution and Genetics.

In my case, my main salary is from CONICET as a researcher, and I have a minimum wage position as a Professor, anyways CONICET does not allow getting higher Prof pay even if we do 2 complete jobs.

Para ser investigador de CONICET hay que tener título de doctorado y luego aplicar para trabajar en alguno de los Institutos de investigación que están en todo el país. Hay un llamado nacional por año, y el procedimiento de selección dura 1 año. Luego, hay que esperar otro año más para comenzar el trabajo. Usualmente todo esto se hace mientras se trabaja como becario postdoctoral.

Para ser Profesor en una Universidad Nacional, hay que comenzar siendo ayudante alumno, ayudante de laboratorio o cualquier otro tipo de asistencia docente de menor rango que profesor. Después de muchos años y con un poco de suerte, uno puede llegar a ser profesor, que puede ser de dedicación mínima (salario de 8hs por semana), parcial (16hs por semana), o completa (45hs por semana). Usualmente no importa cuantas horas sea la dedicación del cargo, las responsabilidades son las mismas. Los cargos de Profesor de dedicación completa son muy escasos, y en general un profesor hace el mismo trabajo sin importar si su paga es la mínima o la completa. Comencé como ayudante alumna cuando aun no había concluido mis estudios de grado en la Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, donde me recibí de Licenciada en Ciencias Biológicas. En la UNPSJB comencé como Jefe de Trabajos Prácticos in Genética in 2004, y realicé este trabajo por 10 años hasta que comencé como Profesor en Evolución. Me gusta mucho enseñar Evolución y Genética.

En mi caso, mi salario principal es como investigadora de CONICET y tengo un salario mínimo como Profesora, de todas maneras CONICET no permite cobrar dos salarios aunque realice dos trabajos completos.

 Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

To get to be a researcher in Argentina in general is hard for various reasons. Our country has been and is financially unstable, and usually science is not a priority on the political agenda. Thus, funding is difficult, and with it academic opportunities are scarce. This has fluctuated in the recent past, and some years it was much easier than others. When I applied it was very difficult to get the position, I had good qualifications because I had been working in the US at Dr. Sites’ lab doing my PhD research and that made the difference. How I got to the US, it was difficult too and included a lot of personal investment and sacrifices from my partner and me.

The University I teach at is a small one, with limited resources, thus I had to get new textbooks to prepare my lectures. Here we do not get complimentary or free professor’ copies from the editorials. They know students here cannot buy their books because they are way too expensive and in a foreign language, thus they do not offer complimentary books. I personally wrote to authors every time I had the opportunity to travel to the US for academic reasons, and I found very charitable authors, being famous researchers, they took the time to answer my emails and send me free copies. On some occasions I attended the Evolution meeting and after being very persuasive I got a couple of complimentary books there as well. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Dr. Sean Carroll, Dr. Lee Dugatkin and Dr. Ben Pierce for sending me their books; they were very generous and allowed me to be a better Professor.

Llegar a ser un investigador científico en Argentina en general es difícil por varias razones. Nuestro país ha sido y es financieramente inestable, y usualmente la ciencia no es prioridad en la agenda política. Por lo tanto, la financiación es difícil, y las oportunidades académicas son escasas. Esto ha fluctuado en el pasado reciente, y algunos años fue más fácil que otros. Cuando yo postulé al trabajo era muy difícil conseguirlo, tenía buenos antecedentes porque había trabajado en EEUU en el laboratorio del Dr. Sites realizando las investigaciones de mi doctorado, eso hizo una diferencia. Cómo llegué a los EEUU, también fue difícil e incluyó mucha inversión y sacrificios personales, de mi compañero y mía.

La Universidad donde enseño es pequeña, con recursos limitados, por lo que tuve que conseguirme los libros de texto actualizados para preparar mis clases. Aquí no recibimos copias gratis para profesores de las editoriales. Ellas saben que los alumnos aquí no pueden comprar sus libros porque son excesivamente caros para nosotros y en lengua extranjera, por lo tanto no ofrecen copias gratis para profesores. Cada oportunidad que tuve de viajar por motivos académicos a EEUU, le escribí personalmente a los autores de libros, y encontré autores considerados, que siendo investigadores famosos, se tomaron el tiempo para contestar mis correos electrónicos y enviarme copias gratis. En un par de ocasiones, luego de ser muy persistente y persuasiva, conseguí algunos libros durante congresos de Evolution en EEUU. Quisiera aprovechar la oportunidad para agradecer a los Drs. Sean Carroll, Lee Dugatkin and Ben Pierce por enviarme sus libros; fueron muy generosos y eso me permitió ser mejor profesor.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

In Argentina or any other country where investment in science is not in the political agenda, a person really has to have passion and love for this profession, willing to make sacrifices in many ways, and to use personal money (with low salaries) to move forward their research programs.

 En Argentina o cualquier otro país donde la inversión en ciencia no está en la agenda política, una persona tiene que tener pasión por esta profesión, estar dispuesta a hacer sacrificios de muchas maneras y a usar su dinero personal (con salarios bajos) para mover hacia delante sus investigaciones.

 What’s your favorite herp?

Lizards (Lagartijas)

Why are you an HL member?

This society gave me a really nice stimulus when I was a PhD student in 2002. I was selected as one of the 6 finalists in the “2002 Herpetologists’ League Robert G. Jaegar Award” for graduate students. I got 30 years of Herpetologica Journal and 300u$s. I got this award for the oral presentation of this research “Retrieving shallow and deep history in the Andean biota: Liolaemus elongatus-kriegi complex (Squamata:Liolaemidae) as a model system”.

As long as I financially can, I am a member to support the activities that help to maintain good academic herpetological research on the spotlight.

Esta sociedad me dió un buen estímulo cuando yo era alumna de doctorado en 2002. Fui seleccionada como una de las seis finalistas en el “2002 Herpetologists’ League Robert G. Jaegar Award” para estudiantes de postgrado. Recibí 30 años de la revista Herpetologica y 300u$s. Este premio lo obtuve con la presentación oral del trabajo “Retrieving shallow and deep history in the Andean biota: Liolaemus elongatus-kriegi complex (Squamata:Liolaemidae) as a model system”.

Mientras mi situación financiera me lo permita, soy socia para apoyar las actividades que ayudan a mantener buena investigación académica en herpetología, estimulando a los jóvenes investigadores.

 Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

February 2018, field trip to explore the top of a mountain in Northwestern Argentina to get a new lizard species we knew it was there at 3,800 msnm

Febrero 2018, viaje de campo para subir una montaña en el Noroeste de Argentina para capturar una nueva especie de lagartija que sabíamos que estaba allí a 3,800 msnm. Mi primer viaje en mula, que se llamaba Pericota.


Name: Freya Rowland

Age: 34

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @freshwaterfreya

Where do you work? I work for the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, and I am employed by the University of Michigan. My postdoc advisor, Dr. Craig Stow, is a NOAA employee, and I am based at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Position: I am a postdoctoral fellow.

How did you get there?

I did my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin and was lucky enough to get involved in research at the Center for Limnology working with two (then) graduate students of Dr. Steve Carpenter, Drs. Oonsie Biggs and Amy Kamarainen. They allowed me to be part of a research project in its entirety. I helped plan sampling, prepped sample bottles, sampled lakes, enumerated zooplankton, and helped write the manuscript.

Immediately after graduation, I started a M.S. in the labs of Drs. Mike Vanni and María González. My master’s work examined how light and nutrient variation affects food chain efficiency, and I wanted to add in a benthic food chain. Dr. Michelle Boone was on my committee, and she recommended I use bullfrogs as my benthic consumer. I find it ironic that my interest in amphibians was sparked by the much-maligned bullfrog, but I spent hours watching the tadpoles swim and brainstorming future research ideas that would incorporate them.

I knew I wanted to get a Ph.D., but I decided to take some time away from academia to work in the real world. I spent three years working as an urban hydrologist at governmental agencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I sampled ponds, streams, lakes, and stormwater to determine pollutant loads being exported downstream. I enjoyed the applied nature of this work, but I realized that my interest in acquiring new skills and conducting research was driving me towards doctoral studies. I knew that Michelle had worked with Dr. Ray Semlitsch for her Ph.D., but I didn’t think I had much of a chance because I had zero amphibian ecology experience. Ray was the first person I emailed about Ph.D. positions, and I didn’t expect a reply. I was thrilled when he accepted me into his lab at the University of Missouri.

While at Missouri, I used pond ecosystems to ask some basic questions about food webs and subsidies. I explored bottom-up and top-down effects in ponds, I examined how leaf litter affects small aquatic ecosystems, and I looked at shifting food web interactions with increasing leaf litter inputs into ponds. I also had the good fortune of being part of a larger effort researching source-sink dynamics of pond-breeding salamanders on the Fort Leonard Wood military base in Missouri. Moreover, I was able to complete several side projects with graduate students and undergraduates in the Semlitsch lab during my time in Missouri.

As I was finishing my Ph.D. this past fall, I saw an advertisement for my current postdoc position. It is a great fit in many ways. For my job talk, I presented pond research that probably weirded out all of the Great Lakes scientists. My undergraduate and master’s work was in Limnology, and my Ph.D. was in a strong population and community ecology lab that emphasized quantitative skills — as a result, the jump from studying ponds to modeling harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie and what determines their toxicity was less difficult than it might seem. I am still getting used to the massive scale of the Great Lakes, however, as that quite a bit different from ponds.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?
In the summer before I started the third year of my Ph.D., my advisor Ray Semlitsch passed away unexpectedly. It was challenging not only because I lost a great mentor with an incredible knowledge of herpetology, population and community ecology, and all things Ambystoma, but also because he was so much fun to be around. Ray loved science, and you could go into his office totally despondent about the challenges of graduate school and emerge feeling excited about your research and where it could go. I miss talking with him about anything and everything.

Because I had already planned out all of my research, I decided to stay at the University of Missouri and finish my degree. It wasn’t easy, but I am grateful for the support of Tom Anderson, Britt Ousterhout, Jake Burkhart, Arianne Messerman (the other students still in the lab at the time), past Semlitsch students, Ray’s larger network, and the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri. There were so many people who reached out to those of us still in the lab to offer support. In particular, Drs. Ricardo Holdo (now at the University of Georgia), Manuel Leal, and Lori Eggert became important mentors to me. I am a broader and better scientist because of them.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

I don’t know if I am far enough in my career to offer advice, but whenever I talk to undergraduates about pursuing scientific jobs I emphasize the importance of experience. Getting that first lab job is surprisingly difficult, and I know it frustrates a lot of undergraduates — I accepted a for-credit lab job before I got a paid position.

I would also stress the importance of finding a mentor (whether it be a graduate student or faculty member) who wants you to really engage in the science rather than just washing dishes or entering data. Look for someone who is willing to publish with you. I have had some fantastic undergraduates work with me, and two of them are first authors on papers. That sort of experience can help you determine whether you want to pursue a scientific career (because let’s face it: field work can be hard, data entry can be boring, and writing can be challenging), but it also puts you way ahead of the field if/when you apply to graduate school.

My third piece of advice is to go for it. If you want a Ph.D., give it your all. Ray used to compare academic careers to basketball: You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, so just keep on shooting. The rejections of grants and papers can be tough. I spent a lot of time feeling unsure of myself and whether I was smart enough to make it, but I have never had a mentor who thought s/he was the smartest in the department. All of them decided to work their tails off and see how far it would take them. It has been a journey to get over myself and not be afraid to ask questions and fail occasionally (or a lot).

Universities are starting to recognize the hurdles faced by individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, and many of these institutions offer special scholarships and fellowships to support research endeavors. That being said, I think PIs need to specifically try to recruit people from diverse backgrounds to their labs; I suspect many people are not aware of the opportunities available to them, and PIs can act as a bridge and support applying for fellowships and grants.

Many societies have mentorship opportunities designed to offer support to individuals from underrepresented groups. For example, the Society for Freshwater Science has the Instars Program and the Ecological Society of America has SEEDS. There are also other opportunities like the EEB Mentor Match program run by Drs. Meghan Duffy and Terry McGlynn. These programs are a great way to connect with mentors from similar backgrounds — or at least someone who can empathize with your experience. I have had many mentors at every stage of my career and could not have made it without their advice and assistance.

What’s your favorite herp?

I consider myself an aquatic ecologist, so I am very fond of pond-breeding amphibians. As a Semlitsch lab graduate, I would be remiss to not name a salamander! I am going with the ringed salamander (Ambystoma annulatum). Not to sound too unscientific, but there is something majestic about their long bodies and bright yellow rings. I would add that the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) was an excellent study species for my dissertation. Their egg masses are easy to find and take weeks to hatch because of cool water temperatures in the spring, which made them perfect for a frazzled Ph.D. student.

Why are you an HL member? I am a member because of the numerous opportunities that the league gives graduate students. I was lucky to receive grant funding from the Herpetologists’ League, which made a difference in my research. The league is also an incredibly welcoming and supportive community.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Not that I can think of.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Here I am holding a juvenile ringed salamander at the greenhouse where I completed many of my dissertation experiments.


Age: 21

Where do you go to school? What is your position (undergrad, grad student, etc)?

Iowa State University, undergrad

What are your interests (research, career, or hobbies)?

In terms of research I’m interested in community ecology and predator-prey interactions. Though I’ve become excited about coloration and non-vocal communication, it’s just interesting to think about the different ways in which species communicate via coloration and patterns! In terms of hobbies I like camping and hiking along with cross-stitching!

Are you working on any research projects, and if not, would you like to?

Currently, I’m finishing up my last semester as an undergrad, so I’m trying to write and submit for publication any work that I’ve done in the last couple of years! I’m working with my field mentors from this past summer, Dr. Putman and Dr. Swierk, to submit a manuscript on water anoles. It’s been a lot of fun but was and continues to be a learning process!

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome in academics or in research?

One of the obstacles that I’ve had to overcome is the lack of representation within my field and academics. I think that sometimes it’s difficult to be in a classroom and not see people who look like you, which can be isolating. Though I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great support system and a lab group who have always supported me in my endeavors.

What advice do you give other students interested in joining a lab? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

I would suggest that if there’s a lab or labs that you’re interested in to just reach out, send a letter introducing yourself and why you’re interested in the lab. Most PIs are more than happy to offer research experience especially when you are enthusiastic and excited to learn new things. Also, before joining a lab it may be helpful to think about some of the goals you want to achieve while in the lab, so that you have clear expectations for yourself and can begin a conversation with the PI about increasing your responsibilities within the lab later on. For anyone from an underrepresented group, I would first like to say that you belong here and are deserving of respect! I would suggest that you build a support system of people who care about you and your career aspirations. Keep your goals in mind and realize that you will achieve them as long as you put in the work!

Have you ever attended a professional conference? What did you enjoy about the experience and what was challenging? What advice would you offer to other students about your experience? 

I have attended the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National conference three times, two of which I had the opportunity to present a poster on my research! I can’t recommend the SACNAS National Conference enough for scientists and students at any level, especially undergraduates. The conference is pretty huge, which was incredibly intimidating at first but it’s such a great opportunity to interact with so many amazing scientists, while also getting the chance to attend some fun and helpful seminars along the way! I would suggest being open-minded about meeting new people and taking every chance you have to talk to someone you may have never meet otherwise. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions, someone will be happy to help you out!

What are your future goals (career or otherwise)?

I want to be a professor of ecology or herpetology! I really love to teach and find new ways of explaining concepts. So, the ultimate dream would be to be a professor and have the opportunity to create programs with the goal of getting underrepresented groups interested in STEM.

What’s your favorite herp?

This is a bit of an unfair question, so I’ll give my top two favorites! I love the western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus) and the box turtle (Terrapene ornata). My first research experience was the Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology (TREE) program with Dr. Fredric Janzen, which is where I discovered my love for reptiles and ecology based research. Both are super cute and sweet herps but a bit dorky…through that could just be me projecting!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Whatever it is that you’re passionate about find a way to make into a career that you love! It’s going to take a lot of hard work and there will be ups and downs but if you’re always working towards something you care about you will find a way to do it. Also, prioritize your mental health, I cannot stress this enough!

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

I’m not very good at remembering to take pictures in the field but this was one from my last summer at Turtle Camp. I’m holding a water snake who was not very happy with me at the time!


Name: Nathalie Jreidini

Age: 22

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: Instagram and twitter handle: @nat_jreidini

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathalie-jreidini/

Where do you work? McGill University, Biology Department, Redpath Museum

Position: MSc Biology candidate, Teaching Assistant

How did you get there? As most modern-day scientists, I grew up reading science magazines and watching animal documentaries. This sparked my curiosity and made me realize how behaviorally diverse and plainly weird animals can be. However, the biology classes given at my conservative high school focused on the medical subfield in biology rather than the ecological, wildlife, and evolutionary subfields, and so I was not satisfied with my education in that aspect. I went on to complete a BSc in Honours Biology, where I was prompted to start a career in research. After working in both laboratory and field settings, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in ecology and so the next step was to go to grad school.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I grew up in Lebanon, where neither a career in ecology is recognized to be a real occupation, nor is any profession in biological research. And so, despite the lack of support from high school teachers, I moved to Montreal to get a shot at fulfilling my passion. However, I quickly realized that the field was governed by men. I had to work twice as hard to earn my position in the workplace, especially during my earlier job experiences where I wasn’t taken seriously and would get teased for being a “petite” Arab woman.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? I would advise anyone interested in a career in research, especially one involving fieldwork, to try not to give in to negative comments about age, sex, or ethnicity. You deserve a fair shot, and might end up doing a better job than someone else who is deemed more “fit for the job”. If you are from an underrepresented group, then maybe try to reach out to someone in your field whom you can relate to and can offer you specific guidance.

What’s your favorite herp? I can’t pick a favorite, but the first herp I got into as a kid (and extensively googled) was the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum).

Why are you an HL member? I wanted to be part of a community of people whose research interests are similar to mine.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Late night cuddles with a juvenile toad.


Marty Crump

Name: Martha L. (Marty) Crump

Age: 72

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: None

Where do you work? Northern Arizona University and Utah State University

Position: Adjunct Professor at both NAU and USU

How did you get there?  As a kid, I was fascinated by amphibian metamorphosis.  I collected frogs, tadpoles, and efts and kept them as pets.  In eighth grade I decided to become a biologist and never looked back.  When I started as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas in 1964, I intended to become a wildlife biologist.  I was quickly told that women didn’t go into that field.  The first day of my sophomore year I wandered into the KU Museum of Natural History hoping to get a part-time job.  The curators of mammalogy, ornithology, and ichthyology all needed student typists.  That was not the reason I wanted to work in the museum!  Bill Duellman, curator of the herpetology division, wanted a student to catalogue and tie tags onto specimens.  I got the job and the rest is history.  I earned my MA at KU, in 1971; Bill Duellman was my advisor.  I carried out my thesis research in Belém, Brazil (Thesis title: “Quantitative Analysis of the Ecological Distribution of a Tropical Herpetofauna”).  I stayed on at KU and earned my PhD in 1974, again working with Bill.  I carried out my fieldwork for my dissertation in Santa Cecilia, in the upper Amazon Basin of Ecuador (Dissertation title: “Reproductive Strategies in a Tropical Anuran Community”).  I was a postdoc in the lab of Stanley Salthe at Brooklyn College, from 1974-1976.  From there I went to the University of Florida, Gainesville, where I served as Assistant through Full Professor, from 1976-1992.

After retiring from UF, I moved to Flagstaff, AZ, where I (1) gave training courses in Ecuador, Argentina, and Bolivia on amphibian biology and field survey methods for studying amphibians, (2) participated in surveys of amphibians and reptiles in Ecuador, (3) carried out fieldwork on the ecology and behavior of Darwin’s frogs in southern Chile, and (4) wrote about biology and nature for children (Ranger RickHighlights Magazine for Children, Boyds Mills Press, etc.) and for a general audience (various books published by the University of Chicago Press).  I moved to Logan, Utah, in 2011, where I continue to write for children and a general audience, and when I can secure funding, continue to do fieldwork on Darwin’s frogs in Chile

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I was fortunate in having a mentor, Bill Duellman, who believed in me.  During the 1960s and 1970s some women found it hard to be taken seriously in herpetology, as the field was heavily skewed toward men.  Never during my graduate career did I feel discriminated against or that I received special preference because I was a woman.  I’m sure it helped that Bill’s wife, Linda Trueb, was an accomplished herpetologist.  Through Linda, Bill knew firsthand that women can hold their own intellectually, and that women are physically capable of excelling under rough field conditions.  I carried this attitude with me into my faculty position.  I was taken seriously, because I saw myself as a serious scientist.  So, surprising as it may seem to some, being a woman herpetologist 40-50 years ago was not a hardship for me.  Hardest for me was combining my career and motherhood (I have two children).  On weekends when I was having fun with the kids, I felt guilty I was not revising my Monday lecture or working on that grant proposal.  If I was doing professional work, I felt guilty I was not spending time with the kids.  Fieldwork was a plus, an opportunity to involve the kids in my research.  By the time my kids were 4 and 7 years, they had “helped” me in the field in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina.  As professional women with children, we make compromises, and hopefully we and our children are the better for it.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? Go with your passion.  If your passion is herpetology, follow your dream.  There is still so much to learn about the biology of amphibians and reptiles.  Populations are declining, and we need to understand and mitigate the causes.  We need to educate the public about these animals to ensure effective conservation.  We all have doubts and insecurities along the way in our chosen professions, and so it is critical to be surrounded by supportive mentors, friends, and colleagues.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  The bottom line, for anyone, is that you’ve got to believe in yourself.

 What’s your favorite herp? How can a herpetologist have one favorite herp?  I have five favorites, all of which are fascinating animals in their own right, but also because I have warm and vivid memories of studying them in the field.  (1) Egg-brooding horned treefrog (Hemiphractus proboscideus); females carry their direct-developing eggs on their backs; the first frog that bit me, 1968.  (2) Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius); aggressive behavior, conflict between the sexes, and more.  (3) Golden toads (Incilius periglenes); amazing explosive mating behavior; my first experience with disappearing amphibian populations.  (4) Budgett’s frog (Lepidobatrachus laevis); bizarre appearance and cannibalistic tadpoles; the last frog that bit me, 1990.  (5) Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii); males brood tadpoles in their vocal sacs through to metamorphosis.

 Why are you an HL member? I joined HL as an early graduate student nearly 50 years ago and have been a member ever since.  I joined because my advisor, Bill Duellman, emphasized the value of being part of a scientific society—to establish contacts and develop friendships, share ideas and experiences.  I joined SSAR and ASIH for the same reasons.  Duellman was right, and I am still a member of all three societies.  They are my professional “families.”

Is there anything else you would like to add? I would like to encourage young herpetologists, graduate students and early career professionals, to become involved in The Herpetologists’ League.  The more involved you are, the more you will reap the benefits from being part of the society.  We need your ideas, insight, and expertise—you are the future of herpetology and of the society.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?  As expressed by my friend and colleague Ronn Altig in his popular book title, “Toads are nice people.”



Name: Jen Terry

Age: 24

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: Instagram: @jerryfromthemarsh

Where do you work? Arkansas State University

Position: M.Sc. Biological Sciences Student (I am also a part of the social media team for Herp League!)

How did you get there? I attended Bucknell University and received my B.A. in Animal Behavior with a minor in Environmental Studies. During the first two summers in college, I interned at the Philadelphia Zoo and Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in the animal care departments, where I got a lot of hands-on experience with working with a variety of animals. As a junior at Bucknell, I took an upper-level biology course, Amphibian Biology and Conservation with Dr. Mizuki Takahashi. Fascinated with herps, I began volunteering in Dr. Takahashi’s lab the following semester and eventually conducted a project analyzing paternal care behaviors in Japanese Giant Salamanders which lead to my first publication (https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jzo.12615)! The summer before my senior year, I interned at The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ in which I had the opportunity to develop my own research project surrounding diamondback terrapins and take part in the road patrol efforts. My experiences at The Wetlands Institute led me to apply to the Diamondback Terrapin Husbandry AmeriCorps position at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GAs. During my two terms of service, I served as the primary personnel on the Jekyll Island Causeway monitoring for nesting diamondback terrapins and worked with native reptiles and birds in a rehabilitation context. In the fall of 2017, I saw Lori Neuman-Lee’s post for a MS position on the ECOLOG listserv and saw that her expertise lined up with my interests and the skills I wished to gain. I emailed her within a day or two of seeing her post and the rest is history!

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

As a first-generation student, I did not always have the same financial resources or direction as some of my peers. I also make great efforts to combat my imposter syndrome.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Talk to people in your field– you may hear about a great organization, a connection, or take something from their own journey. There is value in your experiences that aren’t necessarily related to science – take all your experiences to make yourself a well-rounded individual! Give yourself the credit you deserve. Challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone!

What’s your favorite herp? Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

Why are you an HL member?

I am aware of the strides this organization is making to foster a more inclusive and diverse community. I hope to contribute in my own way!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m still fresh in my program and in my career in general – I’m still figuring out my strengths, interests, and developing my skillset!

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Jen poses with an alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) at Arkansas State University’s 2018 BioBlitz!


Name: Fredric Janzen

Age: 56

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: www.public.iastate.edu/fjanzen

Where do you work? Iowa State University

Position: Professor

How did you get there? I guess it depends on where you want to start and how quickly you get bored with the story! But, basically, I grew up in Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, spending a lot of time outdoors in the woods, fields, swamps, and ballfields. Then I went to college, where I changed my major multiple times before settling on biology. In scrambling to complete a degree in the remaining ~2 years, I took a class that utterly changed my career perspective. It was in the Sonoran Desert during that field course that I had the following epiphany: you mean, you can get paid to do this? So – skipping a bunch of details and events – off I went to Colorado State for M.S. studies in Zoology, Chicago for a Ph.D. in Evolution and Ecology, and UC-Davis for a postdoc in Population Biology, before landing at ISU in 1994 as an Assistant Professor of Zoology & Genetics. I’ve been here ever since!

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I suspect we all think we’ve experienced hardships…from our individual perspectives. So I don’t know if what I might consider a hardship is even in the same ballpark as the genuine hardships that befall those in our field who, say, aren’t straight, white, and male. But here goes anyway. First, I was born without a large fraction of my hearing, which continues to provide me with significant challenges to this day in a variety of ways (I often can’t hear questioners in darkened rooms, I can’t hear rattlesnakes, etc.). And now I’m experiencing age-related hearing loss on top of it! Anyway, I’ve become highly proficient at lip reading. Second, as the first in my family to attend college (much less graduate school!), I definitely experienced some humiliating moments in learning the ropes that others already understood. Who knew, for example, that lab was a component of a science class that met separately from the lecture (it wasn’t that way in high school)? I went multiple weeks into that term before the professor held me back after lecture and asked why I wasn’t attending lab each week as well. Yes, perhaps I was just an idiot… J More importantly, though, what I experienced in my college years was an unparalleled mentoring effort from multiple professors (not just in the sciences) to shepherd me in the right direction. Although I was apparently clueless, they saw something in me worth promoting and unselfishly gave of themselves to ensure I did not veer too far.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? In my experience, you don’t have to be brilliant to succeed in herpetology or other scientific endeavors (not saying it’s a bad thing, just not a necessity). Instead, I think passion, perseverance, and hard work will get you pretty much anywhere. Times will get tough and things will be challenging. Those who, even in those circumstances, can find the joy in what they do, refuse to give up, and continue to give maximum effort will succeed. I see those factors as commonalities in me and all the successful students and postdocs who’ve come through my lab. As for individuals from underrepresented groups, I won’t pretend to know what you’ve experienced so far and what you might experience in the future based on that. But I can say with some certainty that you’ve got more allies than ever before. Seek out those allies – the Herpetologists’ League has plenty, for example – and work together with passion, perseverance, and continued effort and I’m certain you will achieve your professional goals. Indeed, many of us are thrilled to pay it forward, so don’t be shy about contacting us.

What’s your favorite herp? Hands down horned lizards (Phrynosoma)!

Why are you an HL member? I’d prefer to answer in the more general sense than just HL. I belong to a dozen or so professional scientific societies. I won’t enumerate them here, but they center on herpetology, ecology, and evolution. My reasoning in becoming a member is primarily because these societies provide unparalleled opportunities to interact with established experts in these fields and to meet the next generations who will change the way we currently think about various scientific issues. I genuinely draw inspiration from both ends of this experience spectrum! Beyond that, scientific societies are essential advocates at local, state, national, and international levels on behalf of our profession. They provide a public face for us as a group, they explain to various stakeholders our general mission, they serve as infrastructure for scientific inquiry and rational decision-making, and so on. To that end, I’d like to make a pitch here for us to make a more concerted effort to publish in, review for, and serve on behalf of our scientific societies. We all have limited time and financial resources, so please consider allocating more of your finite resources to the societies and journals who give back to us rather than to “for-profit” publishers and related entities. Send your next manuscript to Herpetologica rather than, say, to PLoS One. Accept your next review request from Herpetologica rather than, say, from BMC Ecology. Choose to serve as a volunteer or officer for HL rather than as an associate editor for, say, Evolutionary Ecology. We surely won’t reach perfection here, but we will be more substantially supporting those scientific entities who have a positive stake in our vibrancy, stability, and future rather than just permitting others to reach into our “time and money” pockets for profit.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I think everyone’s read enough from me at this point!

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Excavating a freshly-constructed painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) nest at Turtle Camp (i.e., Thomson, IL) along the shore of the Mississippi River (with undergraduate intern Abigail Jergenson).

This was my first interaction with a brown vine snake, one of my most coveted species, in the northern highlands of Nicaragua. We found many more on the trip, but this was my favorite!

Name: Erin Westeen

Age: 24

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @erin_westeen

Where do you work? University of California, Berkeley

Position: PhD Student

How did you get there? I majored in biology at the University of Michigan, with the original intention of becoming a veterinarian. Like many other students, I didn’t really know what a herpetologist was when I started out. But after a few courses in ecology and evolution, I was hooked by the diversity of herps, especially squamates. I was fortunate to land a position at the museum of zoology working with Dan Rabosky and Alison Davis Rabosky, professors in ecology and evolutionary biology and the herpetology curators. I worked largely in the collections (with collections manager Greg Schneider), CT scanning snake skulls for my honors thesis. There, I learned that there are many pathways to becoming a herpetologist, such as field biology, museum jobs, or the academic track. Wanting to get some field experience, I did an internship in Arizona with the Game & Fish department. I spent four glorious months exploring every corner of Arizona in search of its herpetofauna; I still regard this as one of my most meaningful experiences in my journey as a scientist. Since then, I have been on field expeditions with the University of Michigan museum of zoology to Peru and Nicaragua, and soon Belize!

I came to UC Berkeley for my graduate studies because I wanted to learn new skills: my research at Michigan focused on the morphological evolution of many species, while my current advisor, Ian Wang, has expertise in population and landscape genetics. It is my eventual goal to link these two interests to understand how microevolutionary processes impact macroevolutionary patterns. Another reason I chose Berkeley was because I wanted to be a part of a diverse research community; I’m extremely grateful to be here.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

On the academic end, being a science major at a big public university was tough. I went to high school in a small town in New Jersey, and I wasn’t prepared for a 1,000+-student organic chemistry course in my first semester. After a particularly abysmal exam, my professor basically told me that I didn’t have what it takes to be a scientist. I thought I was the only one struggling; then I joined a study group and realized that a lot of other students found the material difficult, but we could solve the problems by working together. That was a hard experience but I’m glad that I had it early, because it taught me when and how to ask for help. No one got to where they are on their own!


Additionally, doing fieldwork as a woman can feel like you have something to prove, or that you don’t belong. I imagine this circumstance is similar or enhanced for minority students, and historically fieldwork, especially in herpetology, hasn’t been the most inclusive. “Jokes” about your appearance or not being able to change a tire/lift heavy rocks, etc. can be hurtful. I may not be particularly strong, but I have small hands that can fit into crevices, which is pretty awesome for catching lizards, frogs, snakes, and even tortoises. I walk slowly, but that makes me good at finding cryptic animals. So find your strengths – you belong in the field as much as anyone else. In my experience, diverse field teams are always more successful and more fun anyways!

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? 

You can get experience wherever you are! I remember being frustrated as an undergraduate by advertisements for faraway field expeditions that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but provided little to no financial aid. So for a while, I just assumed fieldwork cost a ton of money and wasn’t feasible for me (and really, these experiences are not feasible for the average student). Then I found out about mailing lists such as “Ecolog” and wildlife job boards that advertise paid positions. I couldn’t believe someone was willing to pay me to catch snakes, but it happened. So I would recommend signing up for those types of services and keeping an eye out for local positions. It’s totally fine if you don’t have any prior field experience! Just express an interest and willingness to learn. Same goes for research experience – if you had a professor or graduate student instructor whose research seemed interesting to you, reach out! If you are close to a museum, they often have positions as curatorial assistants as well.

It’s okay if you don’t land your dream job at first – I started out working with pollinators, which was great, but I really wanted to work with herps. Luckily, my mentor was friends with folks in the herp lab, and wrote me a great letter of recommendation. Everyone has a different path, but it’s likely that you will learn something every step of the way.

If you are from an underrepresented group, I would say look for a mentor that will support you as a herpetologist and researcher but most importantly as a person. Find someone that understands that the academic system was designed for certain demographics that may not apply to you, and wants to help you in every way they can to overcome that. Remember that others can be mentors, too, not just your PI – some of my most influential mentors have been post-docs and graduate students. Try to cultivate a community of people that you admire and respect, both peers and those at different levels of the process. Often, those folks will have the most helpful advice on how to navigate the system because they have been in your position more recently. It’s likely that you will be able to help others, too, especially those that are just getting into herpetology or research.

Finally, if any field or research experience doesn’t feel right to you, it’s okay to say so, or to leave altogether. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking out, try to find an ally that will vouch for you. And if you are a person with authority or privilege in a given situation and you notice that something is happening to a lab mate, be an ally.

What’s your favorite herp? I quite like arboreal snakes. I don’t think I can pick one, but I’ll give you my top three genera: Oxybelis, the vine snakes, Imantodes, the “blunt-headed” snakes, and Dipsas, the “snail-eaters.” And of course, I love Sceloporus lizards, the focus of my graduate work.

Why are you an HL member? I love talking about herpetology, so I am always looking to connect with other researchers and students, through forums like this or at conferences! Plus, some of my favorite publications have been published in Herpetologica. I think it is important to support the societies that make these opportunities possible.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Some thoughts on making herpetology more inclusive…if there are local collaborators that contributed significantly to your ability to collect data in the field, or shared knowledge about native herpetofauna, include them as authors on resulting publications (or at least ask if they would like to be involved in the process – mostly likely they will!). If you worked in another country, disseminate major results of your research in the native language(s) so that residents can read your work and take pride in their wildlife. If you are reviewing a paper written by a non-native English speaker, remember that the author is surmounting a huge barrier already by trying to make their research understandable to you: respond with courteous and constructive comments. We all stand to gain when herpetology is more inclusive.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? This was my first interaction with a brown vine snake, one of my most coveted species, in the northern highlands of Nicaragua. We found many more on the trip, but this was my favorite!

Amanda Zellmer and Bae

Amanda J. Zellmer


Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:
compbio.oxycreates.org / @ajzellmer / @ajzellmer

Where do you work?
Occidental College

Assistant Professor

How did you get there?

As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with wildlife and the outdoors, but it wasn’t until graduate school when I bought my first pair of hip waders and dipped my toes into one of the many ponds scattered across the University of Michigan’s Edwin S. George Reserve that I developed an interest in studying amphibians. I had read about research on amphibian declines, but there in southeastern Michigan the frogs seemed plentiful. Why was it that some places seemed little affected by the declines while others went unimpacted. That question sparked my passion in understanding how urbanization and land development impact amphibian populations – a question I’m still trying to answer today.

After my PhD, I packed away my waders and made my way across the country as I tried to figure out where my future was headed. My first postdoc took me to Baton Rouge to study carnivorous pitcher plants at Louisiana State University where I learned about long-leaf pine savannahs and Mardi Gras parades. I then took a year off to spend time with my two-year-old daughter when our family moved to California. During that year, I contemplated alternative career options – perhaps I could work for a non-profit, or I could be a barista (I do love coffee after all). But the frogs were calling and I needed to find my way back. I spent the next three years as a combined postdoc/adjunct at Occidental College studying marine ecosystems and teaching biostatistics. At 8-months pregnant with my second child, I interviewed and then landed an Assistant Professor position.

As soon as I was back from maternity leave, I brushed the dust off my waders and hopped back in. Metaphorically I mean, because I now study terrestrial salamanders that live under rocks and logs across Los Angeles. Plus, I’m pretty certain people would look at me funny if I wandered down Sunset Blvd in my hip waders.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

My biggest challenge has always been self-doubt. To be honest, I’m kind of an expert in it; I’m highly skilled in convincing myself that I won’t get that grant, my paper will get rejected, or my science isn’t good enough. I’ve taken great ideas and projects and sat on them so long that they’ve become obsolete (hey, could someone please cite my 2018 paper on gene flow and local adaptation in wood frogs that took me 10 years to publish? #please #thanks #shepersisted).

Over the years, I have learned how to cope with and manage the doubt. Most importantly, I stumbled upon amazing mentors who believed in me when I had all but given up. So maybe my advice isn’t for newcomers to herpetology, but instead it is for those who are already here. Encourage young scientists. SHOW them that it is okay to be wrong by admitting your own faults. Welcome them to the field, not by competing with them, but by listening to their hypotheses and ideas. Write constructive reviews. We are all here to learn.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Find and create a network of support, but make sure you find the right type of support. It is easy to get caught up in toxic circles plagued by competition and negativity. Look for mentors who support you unconditionally. Start collaborations with your peers to keep you connected as well as to keep you accountable. Most importantly, do what makes you happy.

What’s your favorite herp?

Batrachoseps nigriventris, the black-bellied slender salamander. Not only is this minute salamander adorable – how tiny are those legs anyway? – but also it lives in pristine habitat up in the Angeles National Forest all the way to downtown LA right near Dodgers Stadium. I am fascinated every time I find a salamander living in the heart of this megacity. How do they do it?!

Why are you an HL member?

I joined the HL to be connected with a community of academics who strive to understand the nature of amphibians and reptiles. It took me a while to find my way to the HL, but the moment I got here I felt like I was at home. The community is warm and welcoming – if you’re crazy about amphibians, you’re one of them.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

If I could offer any piece of advice, it would be to connect with your local citizen/volunteer scientists, especially kids. There are many young girls that love digging in the dirt to look for anything slimy and fun to hold, but they need to see scientists that look like them to help keep that passion alive. You may even spark a new passion which that little girl may have never known was a possibility for her to have.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Me and my bae. #salamanderselfie

My son, Jamil, took this photograph on a hiking and fishing day trip.

Name:  Brian J. Halstead

Age:  42

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:  https://www.usgs.gov/staff-profiles/brian-halstead?qt-staff_profile_science_products=0#qt-staff_profile_science_products

Where do you work?  I work for the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Dixon Field Station in Dixon, California.

Position:  Research Wildlife Biologist

How did you get there?  I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin catching frogs and snakes with my brother. When I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be a herpetologist. Then a well-intentioned high school guidance counselor steered me away from that career path and toward a career in medicine or physical therapy where I could “find a job.” Fortunately, I went to Carroll College (now Carroll University) because I wasn’t quite sure that was the path for me and I thought a small liberal arts college would keep more options open. Was that ever the right decision! The professors there got to know me and encouraged me to pursue my interests, but it still took until the second semester of my junior year to find the right path. I was a bit behind on my ecological coursework, so in my senior year I took every ecology and conservation class that I could, and I applied broadly to positions in ecology to make sure that’s what I wanted to do. One of these was as a volunteer intern for the Milwaukee Public Museum radio-tracking head-started juvenile Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii). I really enjoyed that and ensuing herpetological work and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the joint lab of Henry Mushinsky and Earl McCoy at the University of South Florida. While there, I studied spatially-structured predator-prey relationships between coachwhips (Masticophis flagellum) and Florida scrub lizards (Sceloporus woodi), but Henry and Earl’s large lab gave me the opportunity to help on diverse projects ranging from the effects of groundwater pumping on amphibians in wellfields to gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) translocation and sand skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi) genetics. Other than continuing research, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to with my Ph.D. as I neared the end of graduate school, so I applied broadly to postdoctoral positions, small universities and colleges, and government jobs. The position that best matched my interests and skills coming out of graduate school was analyzing data and writing papers using a long-term dataset on giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas). I saw the position as an opportunity to beef up my experience and publication record, and I initially treated the position as a postdoc. I ended up really enjoying working for USGS, and I stuck around and kept writing proposals (to keep my position funded!) and papers. Eventually I was hired to a permanent research-grade position.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?  Most of my hardships have been in my own head. I often go through periods of self-doubt, which when paired with perfectionist tendencies can really stifle productivity. I also didn’t start publishing until the very end of my Ph.D., which didn’t help my job search. The other main hardship I faced was a trio of hurricanes in 2004 (Charley, Frances, and Jeanne) that converged on my field site during the first year of my fieldwork for graduate school. On the bright side, I now excel at digging trenches and installing drift fences!

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?  Finding a permanent research position in federal agencies can be difficult, so patience, perseverance, and hard work are essential. My initial position wasn’t at a very high grade level, but it allowed me demonstrate my ability to do the things I needed to do to be a successful research-grade scientist. I have many people on my research team, from temporary technicians to crew leaders and project managers to research associates, so there are opportunities to work as a federal herpetologist at many levels, though permanent openings are uncommon. Often the hardest thing is to get your foot in the door. Many of my most valued employees started as technicians and were willing to work on other projects when our field season ended. By showing that they were flexible and dedicated, they were able to stay employed by different scientists at my field station until a more stable position opened up in my lab.

I recommend that anyone seeking to get a job as a federal biologist, but especially those from underrepresented groups, contact someone who does research that interests them. I’m always excited to share my story about how I went from an 8-year-old wanting to be a herpetologist, the various bad (and good!) advice I got along the way that temporarily derailed those dreams, and finally ending up in a career that I enjoy so much I can’t imagine doing anything else. And I think that the sooner you talk to someone, the better. Many of our underrepresented groups aren’t even aware that a career in herpetology is an option, and the earlier we open the door, the easier it is to walk through.

What’s your favorite herp?  It’s really hard to choose. Fox snakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) were my first favorite snake, but it’s hard not to be enamored with the coachwhips (Masticophis flagellum) I studied in graduate school.

Why are you an HL member?  The Herpetologists’ League plays an important role for herpetologists by providing a venue for publishing our findings and exchanging ideas at annual meetings. My graduate co-advisor, Henry Mushinsky, was always very involved in herpetological societies and annual meetings, and I guess his example of membership and service to professional societies rubbed off on me.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I think it is important to raise awareness of the natural world to kids that don’t have the opportunity to explore it. I am acutely aware of the influence my childhood had on my career choice, and I think a part of our diversity issue in herpetology is an awareness issue. While in graduate school, my wife and I would take middle-schoolers from the charter school my wife ran in urban Tampa on kayaking and camping trips as a reward for improved behavior or academic performance. The reactions of the kids to these new experiences were often unexpected, and sometimes entertaining. (For example, the students started blowing their emergency whistles like crazy when they saw a doe and two fawns on a canoeing trip. Apparently, a teacher had told them that deer kill more people than bears. Somewhere along the line, the part about the deaths being caused by car-deer collisions was lost.) Sharing your passion with a child is a very rewarding experience, and you never know where it might lead.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?  My son, Jamil, took this photograph on a hiking and fishing day trip. Usually it’s the child that is easily distracted, but with foothill yellow-legged frogs around, I was the one playing in the water!


Name: Lindsey Martin

Age: 24

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:

Facebook: Lindsey Martin

Twitter: @CallMe_Overlord

Instagram: little_lindsey_ann

Where do you work? Arkansas State University

Position: Ph.D. Student in Molecular Biosciences and recently a social media manager for Herpetologists’ League

How did you get there?

In 2017, I was trying to get my M.S. in Biological Sciences to apply to medical school. I wanted to apply to an M.D./Ph.D. program and was told that a master’s degree would make me more competitive. I joined the lab of Dr. Lorin Neuman-Lee as her first master’s student. She helped me build an incredible project collaborating with the University of Central Arkansas’s Dr. Matthew Gifford. I got to have an amazing field season, in the mountains of Missouri chasing the beautiful and sassy Crotaphytus collaris and do the bench work in immunological and endocrinological techniques that captured my imagination since I was a child.

Needless to say, I fell in love with not only the science, the research and the questions, but also with teaching.  I loved being a TA. I’ve always been a passionate person. I feel things so strongly and getting to share that with a group of humans, also wanting to learn what makes your soul shine, and getting to spark that in them…It is magical. Eventually, I told Lori that I didn’t want to go to medical school anymore. I now wanted to get my Ph.D., lead a lab, and teach the next generations of curious scientists. At this time, Lori offered me an option to transition from her master’s student to her doctoral student. I spoke with several people and weighed my options knowing that it would not be the best optics but eventually I accepted the position and haven’t looked back.

As for my social media work, Dr. Neuman-Lee approached both myself and my lab mate, Jen Terry, about our interest in working with the social media for Herp League. I love Twitter and the science community it has created so I jumped at the chance to help out. Jen and I felt it would be more manageable to split the work between us. After our initial skype chat with Dr. Max Lambert, we started chiseling away at bringing Herp League to a more active status in the social media world and using it for a visible stance on diversity, inclusivity, and great science.  Jen is a pro at Instagram, I lord over the Twitter feed, and we each post on Facebook in between. It’s been a lot of fun developing these new skills through this role.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

I’ve fought my fair share of demons and dragons to get here. My struggles are very much a part of who I am and why I fight so hard to achieve this dream. I grew up in a low socio-economic within single-parent household. In a town where an A.P. Biology teacher told me to drop out that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I battled depression and anxiety like too many college students in STEM. I overcame the sexist remarks, “no one is going to respect you with lipstick like that” or “I don’t need a woman to tutor me.”  Unfortunately, these small difficulties in my life are nothing unique, and so many I’ve become close with have confided their battles to get here.  And now more than ever, I am grateful that this is my story. It’s made me empathetic, driven, and a passionate mentor.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Never give up. It will be hard. You will want to quit. You will feel alone. But never, EVER, give up.  Surround yourself with various types of people: the driven; the funny; the quiet and observant; the young and hopeful; and the steady and wise. And every day learn from each unique person how to make yourself a better version of you.

What’s your favorite herp?

If you’d asked me this as a child I’d have more than likely said The Fell Beast the Witch-king of Angmar flew into battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. These days it is a toss-up between the Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris and a Speckled King Snake, Lampropeltis holbrooki.

Why are you an HL member?

Being a part of diverse societies are so vital when it comes to networking and professional development in academia. I’ve met so many incredible friends with similar interests and so many opportunities for collaboration. Herp League just seemed a natural step.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I really am so excited for all of these upcoming chapters in my life in light and I am so grateful for all the incredible mentorship helping me along the way.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

There is nothing cuter than the fat, little head of a hatchling collared lizard.


Name: Annette Evans

Age: 29

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @annetteNZevans (Twitter)

Where do you work? University of Connecticut

Position: Graduate Assistant

How did you get there? I am originally from New Zealand and was first introduced to herpetology in 2010 when I was a field assistant on a reptile-monitoring project on some of NZ’s offshore islands. I was a field assistant on the project for three consecutive summers and thanks to that experience (and the contacts I made through that work) I became pretty involved with a variety of reptile monitoring and translocation projects around Auckland.  I encountered my first wild geckos during this time and proceeded to fall in love with them and ultimately studied sugar resource usage by two endemic NZ geckos for my Masters.

After my Masters I wanted a break so I moved to Connecticut in 2013 on a 1-year exchange visitor visa. This visa is part of a reciprocal exchange program between New Zealand and the US and it allows post-secondary students or recent graduates from each country to work/travel in either country for up to 12 months… (It’s a pretty awesome visa option… tell your students/colleagues/friends!). I moved to Connecticut because my partner was a graduate student at UConn at the time. I worked for 6 months as a field technician/ecologist for the CT DEEP monitoring forest interior bird nesting success (amongst other things) and in the winter I worked part-time for Dr. Dave Wagner at UConn.  During this time I met some UConn EEB faculty and grad students and thought the EEB department was awesome and would be a good fit for me! I cold-emailed different faculty about PhD positions, and ultimately found an interesting project with my now PhD advisors (Dr. Elizabeth Jockusch and Dr. Mark Urban). I started my PhD program in the Fall 2014 (and am finishing up soon – hopefully!)

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? It has been challenging forming new research contacts here in the US herp/science community – especially while also transitioning into a new study system (I speak more to that below). Honestly though one of my biggest hardship has been visas… visas in America are terrifying! I’m fortunate in many ways, including that I’m pretty pedantic when it comes to organizing and research things relating to travel. So that has helped me be organized enough to complete the mountains of paperwork and transition relatively smoothly between the different visas I have needed over the past few years. I now have a green card, which relieves some pressure (but going through that process was extremely stressful and pretty emotionally draining – especially while simultaneously juggling PhD research, teaching, course work, etc.). The EEB Department at UConn (and the UConn community in general) have been a great support and really do a lot to support their students – particularly international students.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? I would not be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for the 12-month exchange visitor visa travel program. While it may not be an option to everyone (you have to cover flight costs and some visa costs), it is a great way to get experience working overseas and it’s a relatively less-well known visa option. I encourage others to check it out as it has literally changed my life!

One thing that anyone who is interested in herpetology can do is networking – both with other students, faculty and professionals in general. As I mentioned earlier, I found it hard not having any professional contacts here (and found it hard to keep up with the contacts I had formed during my Masters back in New Zealand). Networking is so important in nearly all disciplines and I was lucky that my advisors were great at introducing me to people at conferences (advisors keep doing that!). I’ve also found social media – particularly Twitter – to be a great place to start building up my academic contacts. It is generally accessible to everyone and I have found it really useful for networking and meeting new colleagues in a less-intimidating arena. It’s a great place to showcase the diversity of herpetologists and has been great at conferences as an icebreaker and to help promote your own research/talk!

What’s your favorite herp? Can I have a favorite from NZ and the US? Salamanders top my US list, as NZ doesn’t have any. I have a particular fondness for spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum)… but also like Batrachoseps campi because I saw them for the first time this year and I can’t get over the thrill of finding salamanders in the desert.

But my first herp love has always been NZ geckos. I worked with Duvaucel’s geckos (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) for my Masters, which are really awesome but I have always had a fondness for the New Zealand black-eyed gecko (Mokopirirakau kahutarae). They have alluring dark eyes and are the highest-altitude lizard species in New Zealand, living up to 2,200 m above sea level. I hope to one day have the opportunity to see and work with them in person.

Why are you an HL member? I joined HL in 2015 because I was already a member of the New Zealand Herpetological Society and SRARNZ (Society for the Research of Amphibians and Reptiles in NZ) so I wanted to also join the herp societies now that I was doing research in America. I enjoy meeting other members at conferences and the student calendar is top notch! I hope to get more involved with the society in years to come.

Is there anything else you would like to add? If you can, volunteer for pretty much everything and anything you can as an undergraduate – this really helped me build contacts and also help me narrow/affirm my research interests. Also, don’t be afraid to randomly email (or tweet) professors or students (anyone really) whose work you admire; and be persistent…emails easily get lost so you might have to send a follow up email (or two!).

On a more personal note: 1) I am finish up my PhD later this year and I am currently searching for post-doc opportunities and/or general research positions. I have a background in biosecurity, conservation and evolutionary biology but I am interested in doing work in the future with disease ecology of herps as well as genetic sampling. And 2) Follow me on Twitter!

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Braving storms and torrential rain during a herp field trip in NC was well worth it for this great find: my first Pseudotriton ruber (red salamander). Happy HERper!


Name:  Keira Lopez

Age: 21

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: Twitter: @keiralopz

Where do you work? Mackessy Lab at the University of Northern Colorado (UNCO)

Position: Undergraduate Research student where I am working on characterizing serine proteases in Crotalus viridis viridis (Prairie Rattlesnake) venom. I was able to present the first part of my research at the Tri-Beta conference (at Colorado State University) and at the UNCO Research Day.  I am learning so much about all the different equipment and procedures that are used in venom analysis labs. This includes using low pressure and high pressure liquid chromatography to purify proteins, and casting Tris-Glycine gels for electrophoresis and Western blots from scratch, and I have become the go-to person when someone needs a gel.

How did you get there? Learning through Engaging and Authentic Practices (LEAP) is a newer organization on campus. It is designed for a select group of first year college students who are mentored and encouraged to get involved academically. If I had not been a part of their second cohort my first year at UNC I might haven not joined a research lab. I decided to give back to LEAP by becoming a mentor, and next year will be my third year as a mentor for the incoming 2019-2020 freshmen.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? No

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Do not focus on competing against others. Compete against yourself and work on how you can improve, and ask for help!

What’s your favorite herp? Stiletto Snake (Burrowing Asp)

Why are you an HL member? I am becoming an active member in the herpetology community as a means to improving advocacy for myself and my research.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I am so thankful to be a part of a hardworking and fun research lab that is inclusive and supportive.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Fieldwork in Nebraska – It’s not for everyone!


Name: Diego J. Santana

Age: 34

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:



https://www.instagram.com/diegojsantana/ (personal)

https://www.instagram.com/mapinguariufms/ (lab)

Where do you work? Universidade Federal de Mato Groso do Sul (UFMS), at Campo Grande, MS, Brazil

Onde você trabalha? Universidade Federal de Mato Groso do Sul (UFMS), Campo Grande, MS, Brasil

Position: Professor

Cargo: Professor

How did you get there? Since my first day in school majoring Biological Sciences school, I wanted to work with frogs. My goal was to become a doctor of Herpetology. As a Brazilian herpetologist, getting excited with these animals wasn’t that hard. Since 2004 when I started as an undergrad student, I have worked in 22 of the 26 Brazilian states, and actually did a part of my Ph.D. in New York City back in 2012. I became a Professor at UFMS in 2014 right after I finished my Ph.D. in Northeastern Brazil.

Como você chegou aí? Desde o meu primeiro dia na graduação em Ciências Biológicas eu queria trabalhar com anfíbios. Meu objetivo naquela época era me tornar doutor em Herpetologia. Como um herpetólog brasileiro, me tornar animado em trabalhar com anfíbios e répteis não foi muito difícil. Desde 2004 quando eu comecei minha graduação até os dias de hoje já trabalhei em 22 dos 26 estados brasileiros, além de ter feito parte do meu doutorado em Nova Iorque (EUA) em 2012. Eu me tornei professor na UFMS em 2014 logo após terminar o meu doutorado, no nordeste do Brasil.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? The current budget cuts by the federal government are making it dark times to do science in Brazil.

Houve alguma dificuldade em particular que você teve que superar para trabalhar em seu cargo? Os atuais cortes do governo federal, os quais estão dificultando muito fazer ciência no Brasil durante esses tempos sombrios.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? First of all, you must be passionate for science, you must be curious, and you can never settle with the first answer you find. Also, never think some fields of science are better than others, every science is awesome.

Que conselho você daria para alguém interessado na sua profissão?? Em primeiro ligar, você deve ser apaixonado por ciência, você precisa ser curioso, e nunca sossegar com a primeira resposta que conseguir. Além disso, nunca pense que algumas áreas da ciência são melhores que outras, todo tipo de ciência é incrível.

What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? Do not give up. The science market looks odd and hard for minorities. However, it is our differences that make science so great. Most scientists know and recognize this. By imagining your point of view from the view of someone else’s background can enrich discussions, your way of thinking, and consequently your decision making.

Que conselho você pode ter para alguém de um grupo sub-representado que esteja interessado em entrar em seu campo de trabalho? Não desista. O Mercado científico parece estranho e difícil para as minorias, contudo, são nossas diferenças que fazem a ciência tão incrível. A maioria dos cientistas sabem disso e reconhecem a importância disso. Imaginar seu ponto de vista a partir do ponto de vista de outra pessoa pode enriquecer as discussões, o modo de pensar e, consequentemente, a tomada de decisões.

What’s your favorite herp? It is a hard question. I work mostly with amphibians and some snakes and so I have favorites in each group. Horned frogs (genus Proceratophrys) are among the frogs I cherish most. I also love the Pseudoboini snakes.

Qual seu herpeto favorito? Que pergunta difícil. Eu trabalho principalmente com anfíbios e serpents, e assim eu tenho favoritos em cada um desses grupos. Sapos-de-chifre (gênero Proceratophrys) são os anfíbios que eu tenho um maior carinho. E entre as serpentes eu amo os Pseudoboini.

Why are you an HL member? In large part for publishing reasons because it I am able to get some help with publishing.

Por que você é um membro da HL? Principalmente pela possibilidade das publicações, uma vez que recebemos uma ajuda com nossos artigos.

Is there anything else you would like to add? We need more scicomm and we must work hard with outreach. Our communities must understand the science we are doing and we must demonstrate that science goes beyond politics or religion. Science is there for everyone and can’t only be kept within University walls. Dedicated scicomm and outreach can help bring science out of obscurity in many parts of the world.

Tem mais alguma coisa que você gostaria de acrescentar? Nós precisamos de mais comunicação científica e precisamos trabalhar forte com divulgação. Nossas comunidades precisam entender a ciência que estamos fazendo, e nós precisamos mostrar que ciência está além de política e religião. A ciência está para todos e não pode ser mentida apenas dentro das paredes da universidade. Se nos dedicarmos mais em comunicação científica pode nos ajudar a trazer ciência para esses tempos obscuros em diversas partes do mundo.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? A selfie taken with my grad students in our first field expedition in State Park Nascentes do Rio Taquari, in Mato Grosso do Sul. This is an amazing forested Cerrado area where we were able to find the richest anuran spot in the state (news coming soon). Very proud of this gang. In this moment we were going up a hill to install pitfall traps.

Existe uma boa legenda para sua foto em anexo? Uma selfie tirada com meus alunos de pós-graduação em nossa primeira expedição ao Parque Estadual das Nascentes do Rio Taquari, no Mato Grosso do Sul. Esta é uma incrível área de Cerrado florestal onde nós encontramos o local com a maior riqueza de anfíbios do estado (e tem mais novidades do Parque em breve). Muito orgulhoso dessa turma. No momento dessa foto estávamos subindo um morro para instalar armadilhas de queda.


Name: Daniel J Paluh

Age: 27

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram:

Website: https://danielpaluh.weebly.com/

Twitter Handle: @danpaluh

Where do you work? Florida Museum of Natural History & University of Florida

Position: PhD candidate

How did you get there? I was always interested in wildlife and biology growing up but didn’t know any career opportunities existed to work with animals outside of zoos and veterinary medicine, so I planned to attend college to study pre-health sciences in the Biology Department at John Carroll University (JCU). During my freshman orientation in 2010, I was assigned to register for fall classes with Dr. Christopher Sheil. Chris introduced himself as a biology professor on campus who studied the anatomy and evolution of turtles, and I was instantly hooked! I started working in Chris’ lab that fall and also began participating in the new “Herp Group” on campus to discuss papers with Chris, Drs. Carl Anthony, Cari Hickerson, Ralph Saporito, and their students. I quickly realized I loved research and gained experience studying turtle anatomy, salamander behavior, and poison frog ecology while at JCU. I decided to pursue an M.Sc. with Dr. Aaron Bauer at Villanova University from 2014–2016 to study the evolutionary morphology of geckos for my thesis and learn more about phylogenetics, fieldwork, and the importance of museum collections along the way. My dissertation research is currently focused on the phylogenomics, life history evolution, and morphological diversity of marsupial frogs in Dr. David Blackburn’s lab at UF.

 Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I’ve been fortunate to have a smooth academic career so far with supportive mentors, family, and friends, which I recognize is often not the case. That being said, I still experience imposter syndrome towards my quantitative skills, writing ability, and future job prospects. My partner and I also had a long-distance relationship for 5 years while we were in graduate programs in different states, which made a healthy work-life balance challenging.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? If you are considering graduate school, I think finding a supportive mentor and a healthy working environment are the two most important things you can do. Being a graduate student can (and should) be an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. Conducting research and writing papers is hard work, but if you are passionate about your field of study, it’s time and effort well spent. If you are an undergraduate student looking for research opportunities, apply for paid internships through the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Consider getting a M.Sc. (through a paid M.Sc. program) before pursuing a Ph.D. to fine-tune your interests, gain research, writing, and teaching skills, and learn how graduate school works. Don’t pass up on opportunities to learn effective science communication and public engagement skills. JMIH is a great conference to network, form collaborations, and make friends.

What’s your favorite herp? I love all herps, but I mostly work on squamates and frogs. I’m currently studying the marsupial frogs (Gastrotheca) of Central and South America for my dissertation, and they have quickly become a favorite of mine due to their wacky life history and anatomy.

Why are you an HL member? I’m a member of HL so that I can attend JMIH each summer, apply for the student grants and awards, and have access to and publish in the society journals. I’m a big supporter of the organismal societies and JMIH, as I believe the most exciting questions in ecology and evolution can only be recognized by first understanding the natural history and basic biology of organisms.

Is there anything else you would like to add? We have so much to learn about reptiles and amphibians, and all contributions are important! A walk through the park can lead to natural history observations that spark major research questions. The field can only improve with more researchers and diverse perspectives.

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Meeting my first marsupial frog (Gastrotheca riobambae) at Centro Jambatu de Investigación y Conservación de Anfibios in Quito, Ecuador.


Langkilde pic

Name: Tracy Langkilde  

Age: 42

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: LangkildeLab.com / @TracyLangkilde

Where do you work? Pennsylvania State University    

Position: Professor and Department Head

How did you get there? I took exciting opportunities as they presented themselves. BSc (with honours degree) at James Cook University in Australia, 3 years working as a research tech, PhD at Sydney Uni, Australia. I got a Postdoc Fellowship through Yale and moved across the world to start a new study system, started applying for faculty positions and got a job at Penn State in 2007. Been here ever since.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? I was told that I should not go on to grad school (honours degree). I had a tough time in undergrad and my grades weren’t the best. I found someone to take me on for honours (a pre-req for doing a PhD), but the Director of the program said I would never make it. It was crushing but I was determined and had advisors that fought for me.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field? 1) Follow your interests. Don’t have your career too carefully mapped out as this might mean you’re less open to opportunities that may present themselves. Even if you don’t really know where you want to end up, if you do something you’re interested in at each step of the way, you’ll end up somewhere that works for you.  2) Find advocates, a support network, people to fight for you and hold you strong. You can do it, but it may be harder so get people on your side that believe in you and help you continue to believe in yourself.

What’s your favorite herp? Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus levis). Those eyes…! And the attitude.

Why are you an HL member? I joined initially because it makes it cheaper to attend the annual meetings. But it’s a great way to connect with other people that geek out about herps!

Is there anything else you would like to add? The field of herpetology is stronger for the diversity of its participants. We all need to work harder to be more inclusive, make everyone feel supported, and empower ALL of our members to succeed. We will all be better for it.   

Is there a good caption for your attached photograph? Sometimes it takes a village to get fieldwork done. My mom will often come with me into the field to help look after my son. We always get to know the local herpetofauna.   



Name: Grant Dawson

Age: 19 years old

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @grant_tedwell (Instagram and Twitter)

Where do you work? Neuman-Lee Laboratory x Arkansas State University

Position: Undergraduate Research Tech

How did you get there? For a pre-medical biology student, a herpetology-based ecophysiology lab isn’t the most intuitive choice. Interested in immunology and pathobiology, I was originally drawn to the research on immune response but have found myself falling in love with trapping turtles, catching frogs, and even working in a natural history collection. As an Eagle Scout, I’m no stranger to the outdoors, so I love the variety at the bench and in the field.

Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position? Upon entering the lab, I lacked any real experience with herps or research – formal or otherwise. However, this was of no concern for Dr. Lori Neuman-Lee or the rest of the lab, and I have found nothing but inspiration and wonderful mentorship in an effort to make myself a better scientist and student. While this has meant plenty of work and personal research and asking questions, I have found that surrounding myself with the wonderful individuals from this lab has been especially key. As I’m only a sophomore, this journey has only just begun, and I am thankful that it started where it did.

What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?  Good work ethic shines brighter that anything. You don’t have to be the smartest, the strongest, or the most talented, but nothing is stopping you from outworking everyone in the room.

What’s your favorite herp?


Why are you an HL member? I love the publicity and inclusivity that the Herp League brings to the field. It is a truly amazing resource for networking with such a robust and diverse group of scientists.

Dr. Shaver releasing hatchlings

Name: Donna Jill Shaver, Ph.D.

Age: 60

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: http://www.nps.gov/pais/

Facebook: Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery

Present work: National Park Service, Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas

Position: Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery and Texas Coordinator for the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network

How did you get there? It was quite a journey from my undergraduate studies in Wildlife Biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to the beaches of South Texas.  I had not seen a live sea turtle until I joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as an assistant and volunteer in 1980. As they say, “right place, right time” and that was me. The Kemp’s ridley Head Start program to reestablish a secondary nesting colony for the most endangered species of sea turtle on the planet had been underway for only a couple of years. It was a bi-national cooperative effort utilizing sea turtle eggs from Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico imprinted to Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS). As a young biologist raised in New York State, I was enthralled with the important goal of supporting such an endangered species. I was working and rubbing sandy shoulders with important scientists like Dr. Henry Hildebrand.  I became enamored with the South Texas environment and realized my destiny lay with this elegant sea turtle species.

Continuing my education with a Master’s in Biology from Texas A&I University, Kingsville and then a Doctorate in Zoology from Texas A&M University, College Station all while working and volunteering in various positions through the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey became at times an exercise in survival…for me and the turtles.

The excitement was about to start in 1986 when patrols for nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles began on PAIS (the largest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world). For the next 9 years the beaches of PAIS were scanned in whatever beach-worthy vehicles were available from April through July looking for those head-started turtles that may now have reached maturity…with no luck. I was beginning to feel like Linus from the Peanuts comic strip who sat in the pumpkin patch awaiting the arrival of The Great Pumpkin…who never came.  I was told by my professors and advisors to “Give it up, Donna” and move on to a more secure pursuit. I’d like to think that it was my inner fortitude rather than hardheaded stubbornness that propelled me to continue the search.

Finally in 1996, a nesting head-started Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was discovered crawling on the soft Padre Island sand, digging a hole she couldn’t even see and laying a multitude of round, slippery eggs. She was beautiful to behold, a soft gray with creamy undersides. She was testimony to the success of the Head Start endeavor and was the beginning of the next phase of my professional life.

In my current role as Chief of Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, I oversea a network of NPS biologists, Seasonal Biological Technicians and dedicated volunteers who patrol not just PAIS but major portions of the Texas Coast each nesting season. From that first year when a total of 6 nests were discovered to the highest number (so far) of 353, I have seen thousands of hatchlings crawl with purpose into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I have likely released the hatchling children and grandchildren of those early imprinted turtles and as I set each one on the sand I know that it carries my hope for a more secure future for this age old species.


Was there any particular hardship that you had to overcome to work in your position?

Well, certainly any serious scientific pursuit comes with challenges. Some expected like ongoing funding issues, some anticipated like sex bias towards a woman scientist, and some just rise up out of the depth like the calamitous Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010. This wasn’t the first oil spill that I have dealt with but I would like it to be the last. Some years I seem to be trying to keep dozens of turtle plates spinning all at once as I put out funding fires with my other hand. I do have professional staff and NPS personnel in other divisions that I depend on for support.


What advice do you give to someone interested in your profession? What advice might you have for someone from an underrepresented group who is interested in entering your field?

Be laser-focused towards your goals yet willing to stay open to all possibilities.  Read and learn all you can from multiple sources. This is a time when we need to have young scientists realize that their devotion to a cause can bring needed changes to the planet.


What’s your favorite herp? Although I did my doctoral work with Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas), I would have to say that the small critically endangered Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) is my favorite.


Why are you an HL member? As a scientist I want to stay abreast of current information and be a part of a scientific community


Is there anything else you would like to add? Like all scientists today concerned with the climate change crisis, I need to mention the impending catastrophe ahead for sea turtles and other reptiles whose gender is determined by incubation temperatures. Predictions of a predominant population of female sea turtles seem to be only a few decades away. Some of the Kemps ridley eggs that are collected on PAIS are incubated in a temperature-controlled environment. Perhaps this will be the technology needed to ensure a balance of genders in the future for sea turtle survival.


Is there a good caption for your attached photograph?

Public hatchling releases are one of the most rewarding aspects of my job—they make the long, sleepless nights worth it!