I discovered early on that I was fascinated with the animal kingdom and enjoyed being out in nature. My mother signed me up as a Jr. Curator with the Greensboro Science Center during high school and it was there that I found my affinity for reptiles and amphibians. I loved working in the herpetology lab and learning about the various reptiles and amphibians that inhabited each unique terrarium. As a zoology student at North Carolina State University, I attended a career fair where a representative from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Tullie Johnson, was handing out pamphlets on museum volunteer and internship positions. I decided to give it a shot and applied to become a volunteer.
I volunteered with Living Collections during my sophomore year and gained experience with a wide variety of species there, focusing on salamanders and turtles. During my senior year I applied to the internship program at the museum and began work on a project centered on poison dart frog husbandry. Poison frogs were a group of amphibians that I had no previous experience with, and because of my recent study abroad experience in Brazil, I was excited to begin a project focused on the husbandry, or captive management, of a species endemic to the Brazilian Amazon known as Adelphobates galactonotus. Poison frogs are amazing creatures known for their charismatic bright colors. The museum has a large exhibit which demonstrates different species in a naturalistic habitat. Poison frogs, also known as poison dart or poison arrow frogs, are also known for their toxicity. The use of toxic secretions from frogs by some South American tribes to poison their weapons has dominated many people’s perception of these colorful amphibians. One of the best parts of my internship was talking to the public during exhibit feedings and explaining that dart frogs are not poisonous in captivity because it is their diet in the wild that allows them to secrete toxins.
I began volunteering in 2010. Now, a college graduate, my experiences at the museum began my career in herpetology. I have held herpetological technician positions with other organizations and am currently working with another science museum in Nantucket. I am looking forward to continuing my education and obtaining a graduate degree to further my study of reptiles and amphibians, focusing on herpetological conservation.