Reptiles and amphibians tell us when something is wrong in the environment. We must protect them.
By Sara Viernum
As a wildlife biologist and herpetologist for Stantec, I’m able to combine my passion for reptiles and amphibians with my job as a wildlife biologist. Since starting with Stantec in April 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a diversity of amazing organisms from wood turtles in Wisconsin, to blunt-nosed leopard lizards in California, to Texas horned lizards in Texas. My job with Stantec also encompasses another passion of mine: conservation. I’ve been able promote conservation by saving listed species on construction sites and educating others about why reptiles and amphibians are important.
Reptiles and amphibians are important members of our ecosystem that often get overlooked and misunderstood. They serve as both predator and prey species and can be bioindicators signaling us when something is wrong in the environment. They also serve as potential sources of medical treatments. Did you know that frog skin secretions and rattlesnake venom are used to fight cancer? Unfortunately several herpetofauna species are suffering from massive population declines or have gone extinct. With every species lost we lose more biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity can lead to harmful occurrences such as lowered food production and increased disease vectors. These reasons alone make these species worth conserving.
I welcome the numerous opportunities I have to educate people both inside and outside the company about the importance of herpetofauna in our environment. On project sites, I’ve chatted with construction crew members about the organisms I’m monitoring and why it’s so important to protect these animals. I’ve shown Stantec geologists, wetland scientists, and environmental scientists how to look for salamanders in a stream or how to identify a frog species based on call.
Amateur wildlife photography is also a hobby of mine. While conducting fieldwork, going for a hike, or just walking along a city sidewalk I keep an eye out for wildlife and I always have at least one camera with me. I never know when I’ll find myself unintentionally stalking an American bittern through a wetland or have an eastern garter snake slither across my path.
In 2011, I began to combine my love for reptiles and amphibians, conservation, and photography through my blog called The Wandering Herpetologist. This website focuses on all things herpetology related from field adventures with herpetofauna to raising funds to help save fire salamanders in the Netherlands.
Through my website, I began working with Frogs Are Green, an amphibian conservation organization created to increase awareness about the global decline of frogs and other amphibians and to advocate for conservation measures to help protect these organisms. I’ve written articles for them, helped answer questions from their readers about amphibians, and even produced a calendar with them in 2014.
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