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Hey everyone! I'm very honored and excited to be talking #herps with you today
Here's a little more of how I became a #herpetologist:
As a kid, I loved looking at (and when I could, catching) various critters. On the plains of southeastern Wyoming, that meant a lot of toads (Anaxyrus), tiger salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium) & gartersnakes (Thamnophis). 1/
I occasionally convinced my parents to let me keep one of these natural wonders in a vivarium so I could watch them even closer. I fed them crickets, worms, and whatever other critters I could find. Once, I made the mistake of putting a gartersnake in with a goldfish...
Needless to say, it did not end will for the fish.

Pic from: helpananimalnow.blogspot.com
Anyway, that always felt like more of a hobby than a possible career path, since none of my parents had a background in science. Later on, like a proper millenial, I headed to college because I was unprepared and unqualified for a real job.
I switched to a Biology major from General Studies after my first year once I started learning about the wonderful complexity of life. I was far from a great student. I scraped by with B's & C's, but the content was cool & the professors were inspiring.
My 2nd year, my biology professor suggested I sign up for a Research in Biology course, where students designed & performed their own experiments. This class changed my life. Doing original science, testing your predictions and seeing the outcome, was eye-opening.
Apparently my enthusiasm showed and my teacher offered me a technician position to help out with some of the research they had going on. I eventually had the opportunity to design my own project with the additional knowledge of the resources available, themes, etc.
My idea? FROGS
One project we had going on was surveying rodents for GI parasites. There was a very successful population of American Bullfrogs at the pond on campus, and so I wanted to see if they had any parasites in them.
I caught frogs & collected a bunch of frog poops, which I examined under a microscope. In all of 1 sample, I found a lone coccidian #parasite (super cool and abundant intracellular parasites). Not very successful, but I was able to finally merge research with my favorite animals
I pretty much knew from then on that I wanted to be a #herpetologist, using #science to understand these creatures that captured my childhood imagination.
That's not the end of the story!

I went on to finish my bachelor's degree at UWyo, but it was tricky continuing herp research without a herpetologist in my dept. Luckily, I got involved with a natural heritage research unit and started working on not one but TWO herp projects.
The first one was trying to build an ID key for the tadpoles of Wyoming frogs. If there'e one thing people know about tadpoles, it's that they all look alike (specifically, like...sperm), which has some truth to it 😂
But they also have super cool and diagnostic anatomy like their mouthparts. Here's the mouthparts of a Boreal Chorus Frog tadpole. Those little black combs are called tooth rows & are actually on their lips. They use those tooth rows to scrape up biofilms from the bottom of ponds
Switch to the other project:

Looking at everyone's least favorite unicellular fungus, chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis - Bd for short) across Wyoming. We collected samples by swabbing frogs over several years & mapped the presence/absence of Bd in the drainages surveyed
We found Bd in lots of places (boo!) but didn't find any in others (yay!). Not surprisingly, it showed up in the montane species that we'd been monitoring declines in for a while. You can read the whole study published in Herp. Rev. 2019, 49(1): 37–41.
I then headed south to the land of frogs & pursued my master's degree at Southeastern Louisiana University under @kidbeachy. He mainly studies salamander life history, but for whatever reason let me do the first project I mentioned after picking me up from the airport, on frogs
@kidbeachy For my thesis, I studied this odd behavior that I first noticed as a child when feeding toads & salamanders. See if you can spot what it is!
@kidbeachy You guessed it! That Gulf Coast Toad (and lots of other amphibians) wiggle their toes while they hunt for food. A study published in 2008 showed that it could be used by Cane Toads to lure young toads, but what about in cases where the the prey isn't another carnivore?
@kidbeachy The toad in the video was looking at a woodlouse (roly poly), an animal that eats rotting plant matter. Surprisingly, I found that this toe movement causes woodlice to freeze up, potentially giving the toad a chance to snap them up before they can hide under a leaf!
@kidbeachy There are other, more clear-cut cases of luring in the #Herp world tho, like this pacman frog (Ceratophrys)

vc: T. Kleinteich -
@kidbeachy Or perhaps this example of caudal luring in a death adder (Acanthophis)

vc: M.Yasin Cakmak -
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