Increasingly, I wonder about how fellow Texans see the natural world, including the reptiles and amphibians of our state. Texas has 284 “taxa,” or – roughly speaking – “kinds” of these animals, according to the 3rd Edition of Amphibians & Reptiles of Texas (Dixon, 2013). They play important roles in ecological communities, as predators and prey, and their skin secretions and venoms have provided various medicines and are being explored for additional uses to treat cancer and other maladies. They also figure importantly in different cultures, from the myths and beliefs of indigenous people to the tall tales in J. Frank Dobie’s book, Rattlesnakes (1965). In other words, they have been significant in our world and, for some of us, in our lives. The relationships we have with these creatures, including fascination, fear, use and abuse, make an interesting story that ought to be told.
And, at least broadly speaking, they are declining. The global declines of various frog species are being matched by disappearances of turtle species. Various lizard and snake species are not faring much better. This makes our relationships with them even more important, because as the dominant species on the planet, what we do will make all the difference in the futures of many living things, including herps. How we value them and what (and whether) we think about them will make a huge difference in their future prospects.
To those Texans who have experiences, recollections, and opinions about the turtles, alligators, lizards, snakes, frogs, toads, and salamanders of our state: I am interested in talking with you to document your thoughts about these animals. I would like to talk with enough people to put together a picture of the reptiles and amphibians of Texas as seen through the eyes of Texans. I am not sure how this project might see the light of day, but in articles or other media, you could either remain anonymous or could be identified to the extent that you choose.
You do not have to be an expert, nor is it important whether you like reptiles and amphibians or dislike them. I want to talk to regular folks who have experiences and thoughts to share. I am not interested in talking about pet reptiles – my interest is in how people see the ones that live in the wild in our state. Unfortunately, I would not be able to pay you for your time, except in gratitude for what you can share.
I would come to you, or to a place that is workable for both of us, and we might talk for an hour or so. For those who don’t mind, I would record our conversation so that I can focus more on our discussion than on taking notes. Any such recording and any information about you personally would either remain private or be shared only to the extent that you give your permission.
In our meeting, I would ask some questions. I might ask about what kinds of turtles, snakes, frogs, and so on that you have seen and how your observations have changed over the years. I would probably ask what you think about these creatures, and whether you think people would notice if they were no longer here.
If this sounds interesting to you, please feel free to contact me and we can discuss whether you might want to contribute to this project.