Some might deem leaving readers on a cliffhanger as large as a Goliath frog over weeks is cruel; however, that’s how the frog log hops. This being said, I hope you all are ecstatic to hear about the enamoring ring of frog enthusiasts and academics right under your noses. Let’s take it back a couple steps to our frogley Alameda County (AC) Transit friend Ben Karin, the University of California (UC) Berkeley herpetologist who I ran into on the bus ride home. After realizing this, for the sake of the frog log, I just had to ask if I could interview him. Amazingly, he was excited and down!
“So what is daily life like as a herpetologist at UC Berkeley?” I began.
“Spend a lot of time in the lab nowadays, but usually in the summer we’ll go into the field. I do field research in Indonesia, and we spend a couple months every year out there.”
“That’s so dope!” I replied.
“So we’re like, finding all sorts of new species. How it works is I take some tissue samples from the field, I bring them back to the lab, and I sequence them, like the DNA that is, and I’m finding in my lizard group there’s 70 new species to describe. 70 undescribed species on one island!”
“I do have to ask, do you get to name them?” I questioned.
“Ah I can yeah! I’ve named a few species haha. Yeah you know we try and have the name be informative about the organism.”
“Do you have any advice for somebody who might want to go into that field?”
“Oooh I mean yeah, come take the herpetology class at UC Berkeley! Haha. It’s during the semester I’m teaching right now. We do a walk through of all the groups of reptiles and amphibians all over the world. There’s a herpetology class a friend of mine teaches at Lake Merritt College as well. Yeah, there are a few great ones around even locally. But really, just get outside, enjoy catchin’ things, you know, catchin’ salamanders! Move a log in Tilden, or anywhere around here and find a couple critters under. So just enjoy what we have right here in California!”
He said I should swing by this herpetology group at UC Berkeley. This I was so intrigued by, and I needed to know more. Walking into the meeting, my eyes were met with a large fluorescently lit room. A stream of academics meandered into the room, and as a high school student, I stuck out like a sore toe pad. Nonetheless, I was greeted with open arms and felt right at home. The presenter was Brian H Jaurez, a Harvard graduate who had a thesis studying sexual dimorphism in frogs and how it effects their ability to jump.
So perhaps next time you see a vague container on your local bus line being held by a stranger, go ask if it’s a frog! And if you’re serious about frogs, I implore you to come stop by the herp group!