Past Meeting, Sep 2020: Kyle Mays – Behind the Scenes with a National Aquarium Herpetologist

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September 20, 2020 by lancasterherp

The Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) wants to thank everyone who attended September’s digital meeting on Friday!

It was our pleasure to have Kyle Mays talk to us about his experience as a herpetologist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland! Kyle was a founding member of the Lancaster Herpetological Society and is currently living in West Virginia raising livestock and being a professional stay-at-home dad. It was due to the LHS that he was able to get a position at the National Aquarium. Kyle started to volunteer at the National Aquarium a few days a month after the lead herpetologist at the Aquarium (Peter Kriz) gave talk at the LHS. This led to a full-time position at the Aquarium where he worked for approximately seven years. During his tenure at the Aquarium, he was able to work with a plethora of cool animals, from fish to herps.

An Irwin’s turtle, a species of turtle discovered by Steve Irwin and his father!

Most of the exhibits at the National Aquarium are mixed exhibits where multiple different species are living together in an effort to emulate their natural environments. Anyone who raises reptiles knows that co-habituating animals can be dangerous as they might attack one another. Kyle related a story about an Australian Freshwater Crocodile trying to eat a Pig-nosed turtle named Harold. Fortunately, Harold was rescued and received top-notch medial care to nurse him back to health! We learned a little about the venomous Death Adder which uses its discolored tail as a lure to attract prey. It wiggles it around to look like a mealworm, tricking hapless victims. All of the animals mentioned here are from Australia. The Aquarium has an impressive Australian exhibit which was made possible by special cooperation with the Australian Government, which allows them to import animals from the country (Australia does not import animals for the pet trade).

There is always some risk involved with raising different species together in the same habitat. Pictured here is an Australian Freshwater Crocodile and Harold the Pig-nosed turtle that was almost eaten by one. Harold is still at the Aquarium and if you take a behind-the-scenes tour you can feed him bananas!

The Death Adder uses its tail to attract prey using a technique called caudal luring!

It was awesome to hear from Kyle about his experiences at the National Aquarium. He helped remind us that a passion for herps and a desire to learn is all that you need to pursue a career in herpetology. He got his full-time position at the Aquarium while he was still college, prompting him to put his degree on hold. The Aquarium eventually paid for him to finish with an Associate’s degree. Opportunities are around if you look for them and get involved!

Thanks again for all who attended the meeting. Stay tuned for more information about next month’s meeting of the Lancaster Herpetological Society, which will be on October 16th at 7pm EST. It remains to be determined whether it will be in person or digital, though it will likely be digital.

-Gregory Wier


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