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 Post subject: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 3:23 am 
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Location: Western North Carolina
I have a question and I think the forum with all you herpers in it would be a great place to ask it, what school is best herpetology wise, I want to get the best education i can in the herpetology field and get a strong degree in biology, hope ya'll can help,
Thanks, Chance


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 4:19 am 
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Location: SE Virginia/SW Illinois
I heard Carbondale in Southern Illinois was good. Also next to snake road. But I would like to hear about some colleges as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 5:59 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
That's all going to depend on what type of bio degree you want to get...


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 6:30 am 
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Ah, my friend. Hopefully this post will teach you a lesson that took me a while to learn.

In the field of biology one does not generally refer to him or herself as a herpetologist. They are generally a ____ist (evolutionary biologist, ecologist, systematist, physiologist) who specializes in reptiles and amphibians. In academia, it is wiser (and more useful in the long run) to pursue a degree in some field of biology, and then apply that knowledge to herps. Thus your school will change accordingly. You should look for people who study herps in your area of interest. If your said school has a strong bio program, but no people who study herps, that doesn't matter: you can always start your own project!

If you're passionate about studying biology, pick biology first and apply your knowledge to herps. There isn't a major in herpetology nor is their a Professor of Field Herping at UC Arkansas -- they're just all biologists of some sort.

Good luck my friend!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 6:46 am 

Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:10 pm
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University of Georgia has a good ecology school and pretty good wildlife biology program. The herpetology teacher is more of a salamander guy though. Athens is a cool town within close proximity to good herping.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 6:53 am 
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mikemike wrote:
That's all going to depend on what type of bio degree you want to get...

Its all so confusing, I want to do this for the rest of my life, im just wondering.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 6:55 am 
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Location: Provo, UT and Oxford, MS
HerperChance wrote:
I have a question and I think the forum with all you herpers in it would be a great place to ask it, what school is best herpetology wise, I want to get the best education i can in the herpetology field and get a strong degree in biology, hope ya'll can help,
Thanks, Chance


Is this for your undergraduate or graduate degree? For an undergraduate, you will want to attend a school where they emphasize undergraduate research opportunities.

As someone else said, there is no "best school, herpetology-wise". Some have a strong tradition in herpetology, like UTA, but most of them have strengths and weak areas. In other words, some herpetologists specialize in using herp DNA to ask questions of ecology, evolutionary relationships, population genetics, etc. Others may study physiology and performance, reproductive bio, or habitat use ecology, and on and on.

It may help to start reading the Herpetological Review and the Journal of Herpetology (a student subscription is pretty cheap, compared to most academic journals), and see who is working on what. Read the abstracts, introductions, results, and conclusions section of the papers in those journals to get a general idea of what the authors are interested in. These articles will have professors' e-mail addresses -- e-mail the people you are interested in working with to see if they would be willing/have funding/time/etc for mentoring you. Some will actually be able to pay you for working in their lab or museum collection.

If you're interested in museum work, it may help to know which universities have natural history museums and herpetology collections of pickled specimens and cryopreserved (frozen tissue for DNA study) specimens. There's a list of these museums here:

http://www.herpnet.org/herpnet/participants.html

And yeah, deciding what kind of biologist (i.e., what kind of herpetologist) you want to be is going to be very confusing for someone who has not had undergraduate classes in biology. You will probably not know what kind of work appeals to you until you take classes like Animal Diversity, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology. I would recommend taking all of those, no matter what kind of biologist you decide on becoming. And as far as experience, that's why it may help to attend a university with a museum and a variety of biologists who use these different fields and methods to ask questions. Dapple in all of them, if possible, and see what floats your boat.

Also, one book I'd recommend for anyone who wants to find out if using DNA to ask questions about organisms is interesting to them is "Reading the Story in DNA: A Beginner's Guide to Molecular Evolution". It's meant for someone who has a high school-level understanding of biology, and is one of the best, most helpful, (and least expensive) books I've ever bought.

Finally, if you're asking about graduate school (for a Master's or PhD), then your choice might be different than the above criteria would suggest. But, if that's the case, then I'd suggest seeing your undergrad advisor first. Also, unless you want to be a keeper (glorified pooper scooper :D j/k) at a zoo, very few jobs in herpetology require less than a Master's degree.

Hope this helps.

DR


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 1:13 pm 
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Talk to undergrads about their biology programs at different schools. Try to find one that gets you the most broad education (ie as many different biology "fields", such as ecology, evolutionary bio, biochemistry, physiology, etc.) so that you will be a well-rounded biologist. There's almost no such thing as true "herpetology" anymore, as others have said. IMO, the best schools for undergraduate biology are smaller programs that have high teacher:student ratios with a lot of contact time. In these schools, the professors have few or no graduate students, and can really spend time working with undergrads- you get more research time, more applied work IN class, etc. Bigger, more research-oriented schools (like almost all state schools) do not emphasize teaching/undergrad work to nearly a degree, and IMO do not often provide as rigorous a biology program as smaller schools. Of course, smaller schools are often much more expensive, so work your butt off in high school and get some good scholarship opportunities. Some that I know off the top of my head that might be good for would-be herpers, and have good herp people on staff are (not a complete list, or in any order, by any means):

Humboldt state- CA
Davidson college- NC
Florida Tech- FL
Hendrix College- AR
Avila College- MO
Truman State- MO
Cornell- NY
Old Dominion- VA
College of New Jersey- NJ
LeHigh University- PA
Texas Pan-Am- TX
South Carolina Upstate- SC
California Polytechnic- CA
Stetson University-FL

Think about what drives your passions as a herper. Are you most interested in just finding herps, or do you want to know how they function in their environment? Do you want to know how they came to exist, evolutionarily? Do you want to work towards herp conservation? These passions will lead you to different fields of biology.

Also remember that in biology, professionalism is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you will have very limited job security if you want to be a field technician. The hours are long, for little pay, jobs only last a few months, and you earn no benefits. However, you will be in the field the entire time. On the other hand, the more training you get, for government, zoo, or academic work, the greater the pay, job security, and benefits packages. All this comes at the expense of field time- you will spend more and more time behind a desk; reading, researching, managing others, writing papers or reports, etc., and relying on others for the actual work (students, techs, employees, volunteers, etc.).

Van


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 1:14 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:31 pm
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KU, that's all you need to know. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 7:05 pm 
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I really appreciate it! Thanks a lot!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 7:12 pm 
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Location: Kansas
Keep in mind that if you want to pursue a herpetological career, you'll need to also pursue upper level degrees. I would get your undergrad wherever you want and then focus on picking a really herp oriented grad school.

Justin's suggestion of Carbondale or a small school like a Fort Hays State might be a great place to get your undergrad. Low cost and in close proximity to good herping. Then go to a BIG school for grad school.



Dan

PS Talk to Mike Rochford about why higher degrees are necessary. :(


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 18th, 2011, 8:54 pm 
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Hey I didn't mention SIU, but it's a really fun school cool bars and good herping... Ask advisers about their muddy boots programs and see what they're studying. You may get into stuff you didn't even know was/is cool like birds or bats or bugs who knows. All the KU people I've met are cool as well as many, many other great schools.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 19th, 2011, 4:25 pm 
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I would give the same advice as Dusty, and VanAR above. Very good advice.

I went into University with a bunch of dreams and fantasies about studying snakes. In reality, it is maths classes and chemistry, and pictures of mitachondria and citric-acid cycles for about two years. After that it gets interesting (or less boring). Different Universities have different course structures and may allow you to focus on the subjects that sound more interesting to you.

Don't worry, it is all confusing now, just like it was for me and everyone else. I failed at two universities because I was playing with snakes in the field too much instead of studying. Nowadays however I have a PhD in herpetology, and work in herpetology, so don't think that there is only one way to skin a cat, or work with herps :)


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 19th, 2011, 9:57 pm 
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You've gotten some really good suggestions.

You can get into any good school if you can pay for it.

Where it gets interesting is graduate school if you plan on following herps for a living... you have to be a self starter... you have to have the confidence to give the impression you are a self starter if you are not.

The world is based on marketing... you have to be able to sell yourself confidently and have an idea that you can sell that will benefit the person you are trying to sell it to.

Before you get ino the field you are a commodity... if you are good... one day... if you are really good... to where you put yourself in a position where you are needed (an important other point) you can dictate your own direction (you gotta be really good to reach that stage) If you do get to that stage... never forget... nobody is indispensable.

Then... there is politics... networking... correspond with people who are in the field you are trying to access. Get your name out there

Pretty simple... good luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 20th, 2011, 3:22 pm 
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I really think either this thread or an older similar thread(I want to be a herpetologist/study herps type thing) should really be stickied.

Great advice so far. I agree-for undergrad-try to go to a school that you can get research experience. Many schools simply have too many grad students/PHD prospects to dedicate much time at all to undergrads. I feel quite fortunate that as an undergrad I am currently working on developing a undergraduate directed research project which will involve outdoor field work(on stingrays-however-I wouldn't mind doing something with herps in grad school) with direct counseling and advice from the same professor who deals with grad students. I've heard some unfortunate stories from some friends in certain bigger schools where "research experience" involves merely being a lab rat and washing someone elses test tubes or similar work-and never getting to know or even see the professor. Not to say such experience is useless(for someone interested in fieldwork being a field-rat is really the only way you are going to learn various highly specialized skills required for particular areas of study).

For graduate school(for those of us currently in undergrad such as myself who plan to go to gradschool sometime)-the hopes are that by this point you have a good idea what exactly you are interested in. The prestige of the university/program really should not matter in your choice. What should matter is who is going to be your faculty advisor...do they do research that interests you? Do they have time to take you on as a grad student? How do their current grad students and previous grad students(I know frequently professors are new) feel about the program? Hopefully your GPA and GRE are acceptable, you have made friends with a faculty member or two and done research with them, and can show your potential grad school advisor you are truly interested and have what it takes.

I'm guessing the OP is probably in highschool. In highschool the best thing to do is to prepare for college. Make sure to get your dose of science, math, and chemistry(I myself particularly despise math-and am not inordinately fond of chem...but trust me it helps). Taking AP biology in HS and doing well on the AP Exam got me out of 1.5 years of general biology classes-I'd hate to know how long it would have taken for me to get to the point in college I am at without that! See if their are other ways you can get involved off campus(volunteer work-perhaps at a zoo or similar if possible). And perhaps most important of all is to keep your eyes open to the wonders of the natural world-whether that is observing organisms in the wild or in captivity. Always aks questions to yourself why things are how they are-stuff learned outside of school(including resources like these forums) will help you in the long run! Also-without that sense of wonder-whats the point of being a scientist?

Oh-I might as well end this and ask a question of my own. I have lately become fascinated with good nature documentaries. I'm curious how one would go about looking into that field?(I know it seems highly closed and specialized). I mean for me one of the coolest things is being able to help people appreciate animals that people often fail to notice and it seems that educational presentations and documentaries go a long way towards doing that.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 3:34 am 
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This is Great help guys/girls! All i know is my career has to be filled with animals including herps or id probably go insane! :crazyeyes: but all i need is money


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 7:47 am 
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Get a career in mine engineering, that way you won't get burned out on herpetology!
Sound odd? think about it.... Soon as you make your hobby a job, it isn't a hobby anymore, it's a damned job.... Your income depends on it and the fun stuff isn't as fun anymore.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 8:33 am 
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This is a very good point. The reason I became an aircraft mechanic is because I was in the pet industry on the wholesale level to where I met quite a few rising academics, zoo keepers and serious hobbiests... I could see myself getting burned out if I went in that direction... another point... the work is hard and the money sucks... until... if... and when you make it.


reptilist wrote:
Get a career in mine engineering, that way you won't get burned out on herpetology!
Sound odd? think about it.... Soon as you make your hobby a job, it isn't a hobby anymore, it's a damned job.... Your income depends on it and the fun stuff isn't as fun anymore.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 8:40 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
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Location: Amarillo, Texas
Find a good in state or border state (if your state has a border state program) college with a strong general biology degree. One thing I kick myself about continually is not having done a broader based biology load. And particularly for an undergrad school, you really do need that sort of broad based approach. Knowing about plant communities, other animals in the field, etc will all help you be a better herp guy. You'll have to get exposure to find out what sort of stuff you really like; do you like field work, DNA work, taxonomy, etc? You won't know till you've been seriously exposed.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 9:06 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 5:17 pm
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I am suprised nobody suggested the wonderful wildlife program at University of Florida, or Texas at Arlington


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 9:32 am 
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Along this line... if you are a real good self starter and/or politician there is always the field of biology consultant. In states like California and such where ecological restrictions are pretty tough there is always the need for such consultants. This is also not restricted to the US. You really do seem to need to know your stuff and know how to get your foot in the door which, I'm sure you can imagine, is pretty tough considering there are many young herpers who have thought of this. I know of a few that have gone this route that seem to make a living at it.

Paul White wrote:
Find a good in state or border state (if your state has a border state program) college with a strong general biology degree. One thing I kick myself about continually is not having done a broader based biology load. And particularly for an undergrad school, you really do need that sort of broad based approach. Knowing about plant communities, other animals in the field, etc will all help you be a better herp guy. You'll have to get exposure to find out what sort of stuff you really like; do you like field work, DNA work, taxonomy, etc? You won't know till you've been seriously exposed.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 9:34 am 
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Quote:
This is a very good point. The reason I became an aircraft mechanic is because I was in the pet industry on the wholesale level to where I met quite a few rising academics, zoo keepers and serious hobbiests... I could see myself getting burned out if I went in that direction... another point... the work is hard and the money sucks... until... if... and when you make it.


Agreed- its definitely something to keep in mind. Academia especially is not a job one should get into unless they cannot see any other job they would enjoy.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 21st, 2011, 9:40 am 
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There are many that seem to love it in the general field of Herpetology... I'd also be willing to bet a ratio of 4:1 that do not... just as a guess.

VanAR wrote:
Quote:
This is a very good point. The reason I became an aircraft mechanic is because I was in the pet industry on the wholesale level to where I met quite a few rising academics, zoo keepers and serious hobbiests... I could see myself getting burned out if I went in that direction... another point... the work is hard and the money sucks... until... if... and when you make it.


Agreed- its definitely something to keep in mind. Academia especially is not a job one should get into unless they cannot see any other job they would enjoy.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2011, 6:34 pm 
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Thanks alot for the ideas and comments, i will be using this great advice in my future decisions! keep em coming!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2011, 3:52 am 
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Location: Arizona
Go to ASU...hot women in bikinis sittin' by the pool, palm trees and GREAT herpin' nearby...

Who WOULDN'T want to be a Sun Devil?!? :D

GO DEVILS!

-Kris


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2011, 10:37 am 
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Folks make this question sound so simple but is not. You've been given a large amount of great advice. A few important things have been missed.

First question is where to go to college? Big or small school? There are pluses and minuses to both. You will have to figure out what fits you. Money, location and many more factors are usually a bigger deal. You do not have to go to a school that has a "well known" herpetologist or even a course in herpetology. I attended two big schools and have taught at 3 small schools. I do not want to push you one way or another. What you do with your time at a school is more important than the one you attendend. Yes a Harvard or similar school carries a certain reputation but that only goes so far.

What degree is next. There are mire options than just biology. Many schools even have different types of biology degree. Depending on what you want to do post degree. Here are a few degrees off the top of my head: Biology, molecular biology, organismal biology, biochemistry, wildlife and natural science. All these degrees can be used to go onto grad school (natural science is usually considered week and will some times hold a person back). These degrees also translate to technician (lab or field). You can work for the government (state or federal), groups like the nature conservative, zoos, and etc. You do not have to get a phd. It all depends on what you want to do. A wildlife degree usually carries with it certification that many government agencies prefer. Also do not ignore PLANT classes that involve identification. Most communities are managed based on plants and not the animals. The belief is that if you make the habitat right the animals will benifit.

One thing that was mentioned is research. This will give you a leg up but not an absolute. If you go to a small school there are still research opportunities elsewhere. There is a granting agency like the REU program that are meant to get undergrads opportunities that are not provided by there school. These are often summer programs that you can also get credit for. OTS is another good oportunity for both undergrads and grads. People at your school may not know much about these and you may have to figure it out yourself. There internships summer jobs with state and fed agencies that can help get your foot in the door.

This is true about a lot of things in life, it is about who you know. Like was said, you can start reading journals. You can go to meetings. If your at a big school get in a lab as soon as possible. You may only wash dishes in the beginning but you may get to do more by the time you graduate.

I'm sure there are some things I'm forgetting since I'm on the road. You will more things as you down these paths that will help you figure out what you want to do with your life (what is a postdoc and do I need to do one......

Glenn Manning, professor of biology University of Arkansas Monticello


P.S. Van, thanks for not listing me as a small school herpetologist. :D I know why you didn't. I'm a teacher first and a reasesrcher down the line.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2011, 11:09 am 
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Location: Minnesota
University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point has a good Wildlife Biology program (and is a teaching school).

Univerisity of Minnesota- Twin Cities has a decent Wildflife Biology program (but is a research school). Also has a museum (with a herp collection) and a faculty member (Dr. Kozak) who specializes in phylogenetics & biogeography and is a salamander guy.

Michigan State University also has a good wildlife program.

Quote:
Also do not ignore PLANT classes that involve identification. Most communities are managed based on plants and not the animals. The belief is that if you make the habitat right the animals will benifit.


I couldn't agree more!!

-Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2011, 7:04 pm 
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Location: Western North Carolina
ksuglennj wrote:
Folks make this question sound so simple but is not. You've been given a large amount of great advice. A few important things have been missed.

First question is where to go to college? Big or small school? There are pluses and minuses to both. You will have to figure out what fits you. Money, location and many more factors are usually a bigger deal. You do not have to go to a school that has a "well known" herpetologist or even a course in herpetology. I attended two big schools and have taught at 3 small schools. I do not want to push you one way or another. What you do with your time at a school is more important than the one you attendend. Yes a Harvard or similar school carries a certain reputation but that only goes so far.

What degree is next. There are mire options than just biology. Many schools even have different types of biology degree. Depending on what you want to do post degree. Here are a few degrees off the top of my head: Biology, molecular biology, organismal biology, biochemistry, wildlife and natural science. All these degrees can be used to go onto grad school (natural science is usually considered week and will some times hold a person back). These degrees also translate to technician (lab or field). You can work for the government (state or federal), groups like the nature conservative, zoos, and etc. You do not have to get a phd. It all depends on what you want to do. A wildlife degree usually carries with it certification that many government agencies prefer. Also do not ignore PLANT classes that involve identification. Most communities are managed based on plants and not the animals. The belief is that if you make the habitat right the animals will benifit.

One thing that was mentioned is research. This will give you a leg up but not an absolute. If you go to a small school there are still research opportunities elsewhere. There is a granting agency like the REU program that are meant to get undergrads opportunities that are not provided by there school. These are often summer programs that you can also get credit for. OTS is another good oportunity for both undergrads and grads. People at your school may not know much about these and you may have to figure it out yourself. There internships summer jobs with state and fed agencies that can help get your foot in the door.

This is true about a lot of things in life, it is about who you know. Like was said, you can start reading journals. You can go to meetings. If your at a big school get in a lab as soon as possible. You may only wash dishes in the beginning but you may get to do more by the time you graduate.

I'm sure there are some things I'm forgetting since I'm on the road. You will more things as you down these paths that will help you figure out what you want to do with your life (what is a postdoc and do I need to do one......

Glenn Manning, professor of biology University of Arkansas Monticello


P.S. Van, thanks for not listing me as a small school herpetologist. :D I know why you didn't. I'm a teacher first and a reasesrcher down the line.

Thank you so much for your time to answer this question!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 2:25 pm 

Joined: June 11th, 2010, 8:09 pm
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Most people that I know that have degrees in science, especially biology of sorts, don't use that degree; heck, I have a master's of comparative physiology who studied tegus in Brasil for two years working for me in house construction. House construction? I'm an animal health technologist and left working with animals for a payday that would support my family. Further, degree's don't garantee you a job. The good news is that it sounds like you're passionate about herps and heading in this direction for the right reasons.

Other advice that I'll vouch for is that when you make your hobby your job, you can definately lose your zest for it. I have a friend working for a conservation association. Decent pay, still gets field time, but never (his quote) "stops to smell the roses anymore". Sometimes getting a high paying job in a lesser field of interest is the way to go. Really, have you seen anyone have more fun than the fool with the money to travel to Costa Rica, Malaysia, Madagascar, China, Australia...

Anyhow, heading off topic. I don't really have much advice on specific schools other than I'd prefer one in the south with year round herping opportunities... but that might be a distraction from your studies. Wisconsin it is!

Ian


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 3:53 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
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Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT
^ I think that's why if you want to work in any competitive field, you really need a plan from the start. If you don't have a lot going for you, why would anyone choose you from the pool of talent? In any field, I think getting a degree is just one part of it. People want to see some passion and self-direction. If someone came to me with a degree and some basic experience (again, for any field), I'd want to know why they didn't try to get experience in cutting edge areas or in areas of specific expertise that might set them apart from the rest of the lot. Why didn't the person attend conventions, listen to last five speakers on the subject, read the latest publications, and why haven't I ever seen this person at relevant events that afforded opportunities to network and get involved? Why didn't the person identify an area of interest and track down a mentor, even if it meant relocating? How badly can you want to work in a field if you are unwilling to do that? Talk to people with no ability to work in any given field and one will usually find the answer to this question is no, "Did you do everything you possibly could to find work, create work, and make yourself the best possible candidate available?".

The world is filled with average people of ordinary enthusiasm. You definitely don't want to be one of them if you want people to get excited about working with you.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 4:28 pm 

Joined: June 11th, 2010, 8:09 pm
Posts: 523
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
In response to that, I'd say that this specific person indeed has done all of the above, so I wouldn't want people to think they have it made if they keep a step ahead of the crowd. When it comes to science, you can be ahead of the game, but it doesn't help you out if you don't have the people skills to sell yourself to a potential employer.
For all the other examples I have, yes, they are indeed just your average blokes who went to University because it's what you're supposed to do prior to starting work. But when in the position of looking for a school are you in the position to gauge if you're above average?

Ian


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 10:40 am 
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Joined: July 14th, 2010, 8:03 pm
Posts: 12
If you want to get a degree and work with herps, there seems to me to be two paths you could take.

One is more of an applied route, starting with a degree in something like conservation biology or wildlife science. Your goal here would be to work for a government agency, conservation organization, or a private company. You would likely start out as a field technician, and it would be important to try and get field experience as an undergrad. You might for example be radio tracking endangered herps like desert tortoise or eastern indigo snakes. There are plenty of schools with opportunities for degrees like this, and for field work (SUNY-ESF in NY, Humboldt State in CA both come to mind). A master's degree can also be very useful for this path. Advantages to this route would be that you have ample opportunities to work outside, it puts fewer demands on your time than academia, and you won't have to be in school forever! Your income probably won't be great, but government jobs aren't a bad deal at all.

The other route would be one of research/academia (as in, getting a Ph.D.). As an undergrad, any old biology degree would work - but you need to maintain a good GPA (3.0 at least, something like 3.5 or better is preferable) to get into a top notch graduate school. Gaining research experience in the lab and field as an undergrad is also crucial. For this reason, I would suggest going to a school with a good research program and professor(s) who do research using reptiles and amphibians. There are schools like this all over the country - some "high-profile" examples including UT Austin, UC Berkeley, Kansas U, and Cornell. As soon as you can, try to volunteer to help one of these professors out - it's the best way to gain experience and connections. Once you're in graduate school, you can (in most cases) design your own research project. The big advantage is that if you are successful in getting funding, you can go almost anywhere in the world and investigate the questions that you are interested in. Disadvantages include a huge time and financial commitment.

Anyway, this is just my opinion. The most important thing for you right now is probably to get into the best school you can and get your degree in biology! There are still schools out there that teach herpetology, but many are phasing herpetology/ornithology/ichthyology courses out. If you are ever looking for field work with herps, two good places to go are http://www.parcplace.org/jobs.html and http://wfsc.tamu.edu/jobboard/ .

Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 10:57 am 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 1078
The last post brought to mind that there are institutions which have reasearch grants come up where they are looking for... basically... cheap labor.

I get notifications on the availability of these positions on a fairly regular basis from one organization but I can't think of the name. The latest was available on some Carribean island if that rings a bell for anyone who might know.

The hours are long and hard. They pay room and board... sometimes a small allowence. You usually have to get there on your own and stay for a few months.

There seems to be many of these positions available but competition is heavy and not may people can drop what they are doing for nothing for months on end. I would think that kind of 'dues' looks real good on a resume.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 11:48 am 
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Joined: November 30th, 2010, 4:49 pm
Posts: 101
Location: San Diego, California
Right now I am a graduate student in evolutionary biology, focusing on lizards. I even get to TA our herpetology class. It is a sweet deal. Here is my advice:

1. Math, math, math. Learn all you can about math and statistics. Statistics is the language of science.
2. Writing. A good scientist needs to be able to communicate effectively. Reading a lot of scientific literature is an important part of the equation.
3. Focus on building a solid general foundation in biology, including molecular biology and genetics. Specialization typically comes later, during graduate school (if you really want to be a herpetologist, at least with a desirable job, you will probably have to go to grad school).
4. Try to go to a school that has research opportunities for undergraduates. Just focus on getting top grades and getting into the best program possible.

Herpetology is a small, closely knit and competitive world. A good reputation in the field takes time to build up, but can be destroyed easily. Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 12:51 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 1:00 pm
Posts: 31
Go someplace warm.
Get a well-respected/published major professor that attends meetings.

- Travis


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 26th, 2011, 10:34 am 
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Joined: June 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Posts: 848
Location: New Yawk
I'll second the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 26th, 2011, 2:11 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:30 am
Posts: 653
Location: Clifton, Arizona
Oh, and don't forget the opportunities of field collecting herps for profit!

(Just kidding, just kidding....)


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 14th, 2018, 5:17 am 

Joined: January 29th, 2018, 3:44 am
Posts: 3
About the job-no-longer-hobby side, I experienced two very different problems:

I have been working in a ZOO, reptile department even. Sounds like a dream job? Nope: I knew perfectly what needed to be done, and so did the board of the ZOO. Mostly, we agreed, but we did not agree on priorities. Workload piled up and they refused to see why. I can tell a long story here, but if you are really passionate and won't go home until you feel that everything is as it should be, you can end up making very long, very stressful hours, always in a hurry to do everything needed. That's what I did. Then, under the pressure, I made a few mistakes, which were held greatly against me. I feel that this was unjustified (probably they were just having enough of me), but in the end, I could no longer work there. Dream of a lifetime, almost ...

I am now working on projects through my own firm, which is a highly uncertain way of earning a living. Project ends: no more money to live from. I spend all my spare time searching for new project funding, and recently began to organise eco tours as well, including herp-tours.

But: I never ever lost my enthusiasm for field work. Just my energy, every now and then.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 1:36 pm 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm
Posts: 1168
Wildlife work is so competitive and pays so little, I don't really encourage anyone to go into it as a career anymore. Herpetology has never got much support and currently wildlife funding is taking a hard hit. I'm really pessimistic these days.

Folks like Ernie, who constantly degrade science and scientists, have had an impact. Those of us in the 'biz' are feeling the criticism. Funding has been cut, appreciation and respect have gone away, and administratively its become much more difficult to do positive things for wildlife.

One thing to keep in mind for herpetology or wildlife management, the skills you end up using aren't so much species identification, lizard noosing, and venom extraction. What you really need are patience, vision, self-confidence, getting along with others, commitment, budgeting, paperwork, and determination. You can gain those anywhere.

My experience is limited to the United States and I do think wildlife management field will recover. These are dark times for conservation.


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 2:44 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1721
Ah jeez Bryan, now you sound like me! Ha ha ha. A side gig or a trust fund are helpful!!! Ha ha ha.

Quote:
These are dark times for conservation.


These are dark times for Liberal Democracy. Have you been watching e.g., Hungary the last decade? Holy crap. That's the playbook right there. Whittle and squeeze, whittle and squeeze. Similar to Venezuela but right not left. Funny how the tactics are similar...not funny how widespread they have become.

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I'm really pessimistic these days.


Strangely, I am not. Maybe it's a function of working at the state, not federal level. I am cautiously optimistic about eventual passage of the "Recovering America's Wildlife Act". That will get us a real revenue model, not this bake-sale crap we've been dealing with since forever. Now if I had Herr Drumpf at the top of my chain of command, I'd be bummed too. Regardless, this too shall pass.

Concerning the labor of conservation, somebody has got to do it. With the right temperament (and good luck & timing) you can still be wildly successful at conservation. I'd still recommend a field job in a state wildlife agency, particularly one that emphasizes not just "inventory and monitoring", and not just regulation, but also some serious habitat work. There is plenty of that kind of work going on today, for herps as well as all other wildlife. Missouri is an excellent example; so are Florida and Utah.

There are some really good consulting firms out there too. That can be a great place to get started. Agencies hire plenty of folks out of private industry. "Biostitute" is one of the ugliest, stupidest things someone can throw down. Sometimes it's true and warranted, but usually it's people who don't know jack who toss it around.

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What you really need are patience, vision, self-confidence, getting along with others, commitment, budgeting, paperwork, and determination. You can gain those anywhere.


True, except for "anywhere": partly they are innate, and as far as learning them goes, "not on the internet you can't".

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Herpetology School Help
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 5:35 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Posts: 2189
Location: Western North Carolina
I'm afraid I can't speak to anyone's but my own experience, but working with herps has worked well for me. You have to work hard, and oftentimes work for free before you'll be paid, but I don't regret taking the wildlife/ecology/herpetology path.

I know your original post is quite old and you've found other accommodations, Chance, but for others that may be reading - I teach at Montreat College and I'm building quite a bit of herp experience into our Environmental Science major. That includes a lot of practical experience, and of course, lots of time in the field. Going to look for coastal aquatic fauna (including Rainbow Snakes) in a few weeks, in fact...


Edit: Oh, and we have >10 salamander species on campus and dozens within a days' herping trip. So there's that.


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