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Question & Answers: Herpetology

Question

I would like to appreciate your work and guidance you give to students as i find it very useful.I too have some queries relating to my career choice. I am curently doing my 12th grade and i have opted for physics chemistry and biology. I would like to pursue a career in herpetology (study of reptiles and amphibians) and i would like to know if there are universities in the UAE for this. Are there universities in the UAE for other branches of zoology also?


I would also like to know the approximate number of years in which i can earn a PHD in Herpetology. I would also like to know if i can work in the UAE with this qualification as I have heard that this is not a very good field when it comes to job opportunities. I am looking forward for a reply. Thank you.


Answer

Herpetology, a fascinating branch of Biology, deals with the study of amphibians and reptiles. To become a herpetologist, you will have to get an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences followed by a specialization in the subject. The number of years of study for a PhD in this subject is variable and can range from 3-6 years.


While in school, it is advisable to opt for subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Statistics. Knowing a foreign language also helps a great deal as herpetology research is conducted in other countries and you will be able to follow the developments in this field and also participate in global initiatives.


The role of a herpetologist involves the study, research, identification, classification and care of the various species of amphibians and reptiles. Apart from academic qualifications, there are some innate skills you will need to possess in order to succeed in this field. The first one, and undoubtedly the most important, is passion for the subject. It is also important to demonstrate patience, persistence and hard work as one may have to work long and unusual hours and be patient while looking for animals in their natural habitats during their fieldwork. You will need to have a keen interest in research as it is an important element in this field. Possessing good computer and writing skills will help in documenting and publishing your research work.


While selecting a college, you have to choose a program that is strong in biological sciences and also a focus on herpetology. While it is difficult find a degree in herpetology at the undergraduate level, you will find some good options for institutions that offer these programs at an advanced level. Also, look for factors such as research opportunities or guidance from faculty members.


In the UAE , there are no academic programs yet that focus on the subject. However, there are plenty of excellent study opportunities that are available in other parts of the world.


If you wish to study in India, you can pursue an MSc in Wildlife Sciences at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore or Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. North Orissa University has a Master’s in Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation. The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology offers customized programs for university students as per their specific area of interest in the subject.


In the US, some good options for research are the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University as well as the environmental programs at UC Berkeley. Bowling Green State University offers Biology with specialization in Ecology and conservation biology and has an excellent herpetology lab.


Australia has amazing eco-diversity and therefore is a good destination for the course. James Cook University, University of Queensland and University of Melbourne are among the many good options available in the country. In the UK, Bangor university offers a BSc (honors) in Zoology with Herpetology.


Careerwise, positions can be found in numerous divisions including working for the government, research laboratories, environmental agencies, parks, aquariums and museums or within the sphere of academia at colleges and universities as researchers and college professors. Some individuals also make a good living writing in journals about herpetology, consulting, making documentaries and films and photography.


While it is true that career prospects in this field are yet to reach its potential in the UAE, the prospects are good in countries like the US and Australia. You will have to make the most of your passion by exploring internship and volunteering opportunities. This could be at research laboratories, zoological parks, environmental organisations or wildlife agencies. Look out for such resources online or through journals on the subject. It is also worth contacting museums or societies that advertise opportunities in this field. Become a member of the local herpetological society or any such professional organisations. This will help you meet other people with similar interests, build a network and participate in projects to boost your career prospects.


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