A big hello to everyone! Its Hiral the #HERper coming to you all the way from #SouthAfrica to share my story as girl from a small town in Zimbabwe that dreamed of exploring the world and fell in love with #Herpetology
Being born in #Zimbabwe was an absolute privilege because it exposed me to #nature and #wildlife in a way that most people dream about! From visiting game reserves that host elephants to exploring the natural landscapes… I had an incredible childhood discovering the outdoors
Soon my adventures led me to traveling & living in #India as well as #SouthAfrica where I am currently based. It was this adventure that ignited my passion for #nature, #wildlife and #exploration! It then became clear to me in the high school that I liked climate and geography
Determined to be a climatologist I set off to University with a plan to major in #Geography and because we had to choose 2 majors… I majored in #Ecology too (Because I still really loved wildlife)! But we all know how undergrad always changes our lives…
I had always been fascinated with reptiles, but it wasn’t until I was doing a field course in my 2nd year that I realised I could combine my interest in geography with wildlife. It must have been the late nights herping and daytime marine adventures 🐍🐢🦎😁
I continued to do a bunch of exciting courses in animal behaviour, evolution and ecology but it was my 3rd year Biogeography course that set the path for what is now my lifelong passion to understand eco/evo patterns in reptiles and amphibians.
I enjoyed research so I pursued a Masters degree with my research focusing on the evolution of diet in the #snake family Lamprophiidae. I learnt about #phylogeneticsfrom scratch which was challenging at times but the results that came out were intriguing
I correlated diet with various traits including #fangs because this specific group while known to be non-venomous, also include back and front fanged snakes! During those 2 years I fell in love with #snakes, their #morphology and their incredible #adaptiveabilities
I went to my 1st Int’l conference in 2016->The #WorldCongressofHerpetology, where I met amazing #herpetologists from around the world! Talking to them about their work with #herps reignited my will to travel and I knew then that #conservation & #research was where I should be!
After completing my MSc, I went to Peru for 2 months where I worked as a research assistant on a project that looked at the evolution of hearing in some #frogs. I had the most amazing time exploring the cloud forest, looking for #frogs and enjoying life in a remote location
Herp jobs are a bit of a rarity in South Africa and so is conservation work so I found myself trying to create a niche for myself where I could use all my research knowledge and apply the skills I had learnt. In amidst that I stumbled upon the wonderful world of #Sciencecomm
In the past year, I have been fortunate enough to work for 2 #nonprofit organisations within the #conservation industry. Although unpaid work, it gives me immense pleasure and I get to continue to do #herp work especially as the communications coordinator for @savethesnakes
I really enjoy being outdoors and that can be difficult when you have to spend the bulk of your time on your laptop so whenever I get a chance to go hiking, herping and do photography, the naturalist side of me gets very excited!
I hope to publish papers from my MSc work! I’m currently looking at doing independent #herpetology research around the world, particularly, the impacts of #change on #herps, best ways to communicate information on #herps and #educating people about #reptiles and #amphibians
Before I go, a quick poll on what you guys think is the best way to enhance communication of #herps
If anyone is keen to collaborate on herp research anywhere in the world… I would love to get involved and you know where to find me @HiralNaik25
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