It is said that people who make careers of their passions never work a day in their lives…those of us who have turned our hobbies into livelihoods are indeed fortunate. The following ideas have helped me along the way – I hope they are of some use to you.
Interacting with others is very important when you start and progress down your path. I was quite shy as a child, and this certainly hampered me…force yourself to ask questions of your relatives, teachers and folks working in the field.
Read, read, read! The internet is a wonderful resource, and more herp books have been published in recent years than I dreamed possible, but don’t forget the classics. Most herpers are aware of Kauffeld’s “bibles”, but there are scores of other treasures out there.
Books written when people spent time observing and recording behavior offer insights that are unique, and differ from those made later-on. Ditmars’ The Reptiles of North America was published in 1907, but I challenge anyone to read it and come away without much of value. From The Giant Snakes by Pope to the more “adventure-oriented” works of Ionides, Allen and others, you’ll learn much and enjoy yourself immensely.
Travel logs and autobiographies cannot help but inspire. Try Raymond Ditmars: his Exciting Life with Reptiles, Animals & Insects and In Search of Reptiles and Amphibians, a 1988 gem by modern-day herp legend Dick Bartlett.
Living in herp-poor environments should not deter you from looking about – I found NYC to hold surprising populations of many species, and urban-born friends the world over echo my experiences.
Record Your Observations
Some of my most important ideas (well, important to me, at least!) took form in my early notebooks, and I still refer back to them. In addition to preserving your observations, writing can be of practical value – childhood notebooks secured my first zookeeper job (long story!).
In Part 2 of this article we’ll take a look at education, joining local and professional organizations, volunteering and other useful paths to follow. I find it gratifying to help others avoid the stumbling blocks I’ve hit…
Careers in Herpetology (Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists).