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Career Corner: Herpetology: Robert Hill

roberthill ZA 5947Name: Robert Hill

Position Title: Assistant Curator of Herpetology

Education: High school graduate

Hometown: Originally from Jacksonville, FL. Moved to Atlanta with his mother when he was 8.

Length of time at Zoo Atlanta: First time around about 18 months; currently just short of eight years this time around.

Tell us about your job and any projects you are working on.

 I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Herpetology Department. This includes supervising a team of animal care professionals, working on purchasing and budgeting, and helping to transfer animals from/to Zoo Atlanta according to the needs of the various species’ populations.

With the rest of the Herpetology Team, I work on several different projects both on grounds and in the field. Some of these include helping support the Panamanian golden frog’s conservation in Panama, head-starting of eastern indigo snakes for a multi-partner reintroduction plan in Alabama, and helping to support local conservation efforts here in Georgia like Project Pine Snake and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. I’ve also worked closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to study diseases in Georgia’s native amphibian populations.

What attracted you to this field?

 I love animals, particularly the slimy and scaly ones! Since I was a young boy in Florida I’ve always been simply fascinated by reptiles and amphibians, so having the chance to work here at the Zoo with them was a no-brainer! And not only do I get to work here with these wonderful creatures every day, I also have the opportunity to help study and conserve them in their natural habitats for future generations.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?

 I’d have to say participating on the gopher frog project here in Georgia. I’ve helped rear and release thousands of gopher frogs into the wild with the hopes of starting a new population. The finding of eggs at the release site after several years was definitely an incredible feeling!

What prepared you for your job?

 First I’d say just loving these animals and spending so much of my youth absorbing every bit of information I could about them. Even as a youngster, I would read every book, article, paper, and zoo sign I could to learn about reptiles and amphibians. As I got older, I began keeping many different species at home, much to my Mom’s chagrin! I did this for many years which gave me great opportunities to not just keep, but also to observe what these animals were doing. This gave me incredible “hands-on” knowledge of the behaviors and needs of these animals under human care.

What advice would you give to students interested in working in Herpetology?

 Read and learn from others in the field. Many are happy to share their knowledge. Also, GET OUTSIDE! There are many easy to get to places where reptiles and amphibians can be seen. Observe them. Get to know them. Respect them!    

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