UNCG professor emeritus and Herp Project leader Dr. Catherine Matthews retrieves a trap with high school students at Chesnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center.

It may be a special person who decides to pick up a snake or a frog, but encounters with these small creatures can influence how we take care of natural environments in our own backyards, and at a global level.

Every summer since 2007, UNC Greensboro biologists and science educators have been bringing high school students into nature, where they encounter a variety of species, perform authentic ecological fieldwork and become active citizen-scientists contributing to real-world data collections. The programs are called Herpetological Research Experiences (HREs) and are commonly known as “herp camps.”

“It’s exciting for students to get up close and personal with wildlife,” says Ann Somers, a faculty member in the Dept. of Biology and a leader in the UNCG Herp Project. “They get to look animals in the eye. They also learn to safely catch and release these animals unharmed.”

In June, Somers and UNCG professor emeritus Dr. Catherine Matthews advised a creature-capturing program at Chestnut Ridge in nearby Efland, with 9th through 12th-graders, not only from North Carolina, but from as far as Ohio and Florida.

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Originally published July 23, 2018. Story by Susan Kirby-Smith. Photography by Martin W. Kane.

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