#27: Brandon Kong- California Tiger Salamanders, Rattlesnakes, and How To Herp

#27: Brandon Kong – California Tiger Salamanders, Rattlesnakes, and How To Herp Nature's Archive


My guest in this episode is Brandon Kong. Brandon is a conservation field technician at Stanford University, is studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz, and has a particular passion for “herping” , which is looking for and studying the nature of reptiles and amphibians. Brandon’s studies and field work give him plenty of hands-on herping experience, and he shares many of his amazing finds on his YouTube and Instagram channels.

We had two primary goals for today’s episode – discuss what herping is and how to do it, and dive deeper into the California Tiger Salamander, which is the subject of Brandon’s conservation efforts and studies.

California Tiger Salamander (Photo by Brandon Kong)

As you might imagine, the topic of herping is immense. After all, it covers snakes, lizards, newts and salamanders, frogs, toads, and more. And species diversity and behaviors vary dramatically across habitats.

Despite the enormity of the topic, I think we pulled it off! In this episode you’ll learn about how to find herps and where to look, weather dependencies, and the ethics and etiquette of herping. These are sensitive animals with fragile habitats, so this is particularly important.

Along the way we also discuss Brandon’s experiences with the Prairie Rattlesnake and Project RattleCam, Next we move into the amazing world of the California Tiger Salamander, and learn about what makes them so unique. Brandon offers some tricks of the trade in tracking and identifying unique individuals, as well as discusses the challenges of road mortality.

Brandon also offers some great resources for would-be herpers looking to learn more.

And one note about today’s recording – I’m trying very hard to maintain my frequent episode release schedule on top of my day job and family demands. To that end, I decided to purchase some new audio editing software that promises to save a good amount of time. I used the software for the first time for this episode, and yes, there is a learning curve. There were some things it did well that I couldn’t have done previously, but there were also some things that I learned to do differently in the future. Thanks for your patience as I work to sustain and scale the show.

While you are welcome to listen to my show using the above link, you can help me grow my reach by listening through one of the podcast services (Apple, Google, Stitcher, etc) linked on the right. And while you’re there, will you please consider subscribing and leaving a review?

Links To Topics Discussed

People, Organizations and Things

Chytrid Fungus – an article about this destructive pathogen that threatens amphibians around the world

Enormous congregations of garter snakes in Manitoba, and a video

Life in Cold Blood – David Attenborough 5 episode series

Project RattleCam – a citizen science project to help scientists learn about rattlesnake behavior led by Dr. Emily Taylor and Dr. Scott Boback

Books and Resources

California Herps – excellent website resource for herps in California – very detailed.

Field Guides by Robert Stebbins and Samuel McGinnis: Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians is a good general guide for the western USA, and the Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California goes into a lot of depth for California.

The Field Herping Guide by Mike Pingleton and Joshua Holbrook

i3s Spot – Software Brandon uses to identify specific individual tiger salamanders by photo

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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