Become a Qualified Herpetologist

Herpetologists study the classification and distribution of reptiles as members of larger taxonomic groups. This can include studying herpetofaunal changes along an environmental gradient, or investigating morphological variation within a species.

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Research that highlights reptiles’ capacity for sentience is vital in highlighting their welfare needs and shifting public perceptions of them as ‘dimwitted’ animals. It can also help position them alongside mammalian species, showing they have their own complex and important experiences.

Level 3 Award (RQF)

If you are working in a sector that delivers education and training (eg beauty, leisure, retail, sport coaching or Health & Safety) this qualification will enable you to develop the underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills needed to confirm occupational competence. This online course is a great way to take your first steps into teaching or supporting learners in the lifelong learning sector.

The NCFE CACHE Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching & Learning (formerly known as the PTLLS qualification) is a knowledge based qualification which is assessed through tutor marked assignments and a micro teach session. You will need to meet the qualification descriptors which can be found on the Ofqual website.

You will learn the basics of planning, delivering and assessing a learning session as well as how to deliver effective feedback and recording keeping. You will also explore different types of assessment methods, the use of technology in assessment and best practice within the teaching & learning sector.

The qualification meets the requirements of the Regulated Qualifications Framework for the UK and is a recognised and accredited qualification. As such, it is equivalent to a full A-Level or AS Level and can be used to support applications for university courses. All our Level 3 animal studies qualifications are awarded a number of UCAS Tariff Points.

Careers

Generally speaking, herpetology is a sub-field of biology that concentrates on reptiles (snakes, tortoises and lizards) and amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders). Herpetologists typically hold a degree in biology or zoology. They then spend time conducting field work to study reptiles and amphibians in their native habitats. This may involve creating population inventories of reptiles and amphibians, implementing disease control measures, rehabilitating habitats, reintroducing endangered species and writing reports for regulators.

Many herpetologists are employed in the conservation field. They work for private institutions or government agencies to discover and mitigate threats to reptiles and amphibians in specific locations. They also conduct a variety of research activities in the lab including population inventories, experimenting with different disease controls, rehabilitating habitats and reintroducing endangered species.

Other herpetologists work for zoological parks and museums to keep the animals healthy and happy. They must be familiar with all of the animal’s dietary, environmental and behavioural requirements. They are also responsible for educating the public and writing reports about their findings. The Level 3 Award in Reptile Studies is an ideal qualification for people who work in zoos, conservation areas and safaris. It will help them to work more closely with reptiles and enhance their existing knowledge. The qualification is also useful for those who own reptiles as pets, as it can enable them to care for their animals more effectively.

Course content

The course provides students with the knowledge, skills and techniques to undertake biological surveys of reptiles and amphibians. The course uses a workshop-style approach, with direct student and tutor interaction, discussion and practical activities. It is designed for professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students as well as volunteers seeking flexibility with expert training.

You can study this reptile studies course in the comfort of your own home, all you need is a computer or laptop and a reliable internet connection to join in the online discussions and interact with other students and your tutor. You will be provided with reading materials, online activities and interactive sessions in the virtual classroom to support your learning.

Several aspects of reptile sentience are recognised in the published scientific literature, including anxiety, excitement, pain, fear and stress. Indicative behaviours are also observed, for example green iguanas increase heart rate when handled, which is an indication of emotional stress. It is crucial that these indications of suffering are recognised, especially when reptiles become captive pets, where they may be subjected to misguided husbandry that does not meet their welfare needs. Recognition of their capacity to feel pain, suffering and stress would help change perspectives towards the care of reptiles in captivity, as well as highlight any deficiencies within the legislation and associated exotic pet industry.

Assessment

The assessment of reptiles is a complex process, and the ability to recognize abnormalities and evaluate their significance is a critical skill. A variety of techniques can be useful in the veterinary care of reptiles. Radiographs, for example, are a very important diagnostic tool in reptiles. A high-definition digital unit, combined with barium sulfate or water-soluble iodine, enables good evaluation of skeletal pathology and gastrointestinal tracts. Focal subcutaneous swellings may indicate a mass, inflammation or infection. Recent feeding is often reflected by a midbody swelling in snakes, and the position of this relative to the snout-vent length enables an appraisal of body condition. Palpation of the cloaca or gonads may reveal a variety of abnormalities including eggs, feces and preovulatory follicles in females, and enlarged organs or masses.

Venipuncture of reptiles can be a challenge. The most clinically useful vessel is the caudal tail vein, which is best accessed between 25% and 50% of the way down the tail. Blood can be collected from the cloaca, but this is more prone to lymphatic and cerebrospinal fluid contamination. Pulse oximetry can be used to monitor oxygenation in reptiles, but it must be performed through the cloaca or esophagus and is usually inaccurate in aquatic species.

Induction and maintenance of anesthesia in reptiles requires special techniques, especially for large animals such as tortoises. The use of volatile inhalation agents such as isoflurane and sevoflurane is preferred, as they provide faster modes of action, minimize movement, and facilitate rapid recovery.