Natalie Gutierrez | Staff Writer
FIU’s Herpetology Club aims to foster an interest in this branch of zoology, which deals with amphibians and reptiles.
Ashley Santoro, a senior and marine biology major, is the founder. Although the club is nascent, Santoro looks forward to bonding with members over this shared passion for animals and the conservation of the natural environment.
“Growing up, I always loved catching frogs and lizards so I wanted to share this with other students,” said Santoro.
“Herpetology is a scientific discipline focused on amphibians and reptiles. It’s pretty much dedicated to Squamates versus ornithology, which is the study of birds, or paleontology, which focuses on extinct species.”
President Jordan Grey is a junior and environmental science major.
“I’ve always loved reptiles and pretty much anything part of the natural world. This was an idea that Ashley had for a while, so I’ve been around since it started,” said Grey.
Aware that other organizations have a similar focus, Santoro highlights its distinguishing characteristics.
“I think it’s important for our club to exist because we provide a unique perspective on ecological conservation. In Florida, we have native and invasive species that you would not really see anywhere else.”
More importantly, Santoro and Grey feel that these vertebrates get a bad rap. Their goal is to improve the perception of these animals that go unnoticed, whether that be because they are considered unappealing or dangerous.
“We’re looking specifically at reptiles and amphibians, who tend to be overlooked because they are quite small and seemingly do not have much of an impact. They’re almost cryptic. They are in the moist dark corners of the environment,” said Grey.
“Most people tend to think of snakes and think they are gross and scary. We don’t want people to think that way about animals at the end of the day,” said Santoro.
Treasurer Nathan Nayor is a senior English education and interdisciplinary studies major. While the club may not align with his academic pursuits, he considers it a hobby.
“Herpetology is an overlooked field. Having more attention toward herps can help reduce the stigma around them,” said Nayor.
Nayor’s interest lies in frogs and their symbology. He hosts group chats on platforms, like WhatsApp and Discord, dedicated to frogs. He hopes to garner support since many amphibian species are facing extinction.
“Frogs are harmless but because of the stigma, so many people are trying to get rid of them. Some frogs are even endangered.”
“It is its own subculture so getting people to appreciate frogs has been something I’ve been doing for a while now.”
As far as upcoming events, the club is planning an excursion later this month. It will involve “herping”, or searching for and catching reptiles at night.
“Anyone with an interest in nature, conservation, zoology, or environmental sciences should join. I, especially, encourage people who feel hesitant about herpetology to join so they can get over any misguided prejudices they may feel over certain animals like alligators,” said Nayor.