Cumberland County 4-H herpetology Program

Do you like snakes, turtles and frogs?
Do you love the sound of spring-peepers peeping in boggy bottom-lands after a spring shower? If so, the Cumberland County 4-H's Herpetology Club is accepting new members. Children of all grade levels are encouraged come on out to this month's meeting and get hands-on with various species of reptilia.

The club is coordinated by Ed and Joanne Kowalski. Ed is a former Lead Keeper of the Philadelphia Zoo's Reptile House and a leading advocate for amphibian monitoring and conservation efforts. For the past year Ed and Joanne have worked to expand the club, and incorporate conservation and scientifically-based educational opportunities such as the Spring Frog Count. "We are involved with several different programs to monitor amphibian populations," Ed Kowalski explained. "For the frog count, we go around at various times and listen for frog calls. Since different species call at different times of the year, you can accurately monitor which species are in the area at a given time and determine their numbers based on the volume level of the calls."

Frog counting is part of a larger effort to monitor and observe population trends among various frog species, and the local area is prime real estate for all manner of frogs. "There are a lot of different frog species native to South Jersey," Kowalski said. "Some of those species are in peril."

But the Herpetology Club isn't all about counting frogs and cataloging South Jersey's vast reptilian hordes; the Kowalskis teach children reptile biology, how to identify wild species in the field and the basics of caring for pet reptiles at home.

Club members also get to experience a variety of reptile species first hand every month."I bring a few animals with me every month, and the kids can bring their own animals from home, provided they are willing to give a presentation about the specific species for the rest of the group," Kowalski noted.

"Anyone who is interested in coming out and learning about reptiles is welcome," Kowalski said. The club currently has about 10 members ranging between fourth and 10th grades, and parents are welcome to attend along with their children. Meetings are every third or fourth Wednesday, depending on the Kowalskis' schedule.