Amazing Students Profiles

Justin Oguni

Justin Oguni

To say that Justin Oguni is interested in reptiles and amphibians (aka herps) would definitely be an understatement.  When he is not busy studying veterinary medicine, he spends much of his time looking for and photographing them. A couple of his favorite local places to do so are the State Botanical Gardens and UGA’s Whitehall Forest.  His photos have even been included in a couple recent books that are part of a series of guides to Southeastern U.S. reptiles and amphibians published by the UGA Press. He also enjoys every opportunity he gets to talk about herps and especially enjoys educating the public about these often misunderstood animals. He is looking forward to becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine next year, something he has dreamed about all his life.


Marietta, Ga.

High School:

Walton High School

Degree objective:

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Other degrees:

B.S. in biology, University of Georgia

Expected graduation:

Spring 2011

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

As an undergraduate at UGA, I conducted reptile and amphibian (herp) surveys at National Parks and was fortunate to be able to spend time with the herpetologists at the renowned Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. I served as Treasurer for the Biological Sciences Student Association during my third year of undergraduate studies and was able to organize and hold my first herp presentation/talk at one of our monthly meetings. Since then, I have done herp presentations and talks at events that include Reptile Day at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Snake Day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center, the UGA Herpetological Society’s Day On The Lawn, and Open House at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. As a veterinary student, I have served as treasurer and president of the Student Association for Global Awareness. I have helped the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine organize activities for visiting Japanese veterinary students and faculty, which have included trips to the State Botanical Garden that introduced them to some of Georgia’s native herps and wildlife in general. My photos have been used in Lizards and Crocodilians of the Southeast by Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene, and Tony Mills (UGA Press 2009), in Salamanders of the Southeast by Joe Mitchell and Whit Gibbons (UGA Press 2010), for the University of Florida’s Herpetology website, and as documentation/vouchers of new Georgia county records of herps published in Herpetological Review, a peer-reviewed quarterly herpetological journal. They have also been used to promote events at and raise funds for the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… it offers quality programs and opportunities in many diverse fields of study. As an undergraduate, I was a biology major set on getting into veterinary school, but at the same time, I knew UGA offered many other options if I changed my mind. UGA also has one of the best veterinary schools, so I knew that UGA would offer a biology degree with pre-veterinary emphasis that would prepare me well for veterinary school, and it did. At the same time, I also really enjoyed many of the other courses I took that were not pre-veterinary related, which reflects the fact that UGA provides a well-rounded study environment. Aside from academics, UGA is also home to great sports programs (especially football – Go Dawgs!), is located close many great places to view wildlife, and has a fun campus life that is hard to beat.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…herping (looking for reptiles and amphibians) at UGA’s Whitehall Forest and herping/jogging at the State Botanical Garden. I also enjoy attending UGA Herpetological Society meetings, playing basketball and jogging at the Ramsey Center for Student Activities, spending football game days on campus, and now, being on the clinic floors at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

When I have free time, I like…

… to spend as much of it as I can herping. Over the past few years, I have discovered the fun of digital photography and I really enjoy photographing wildlife. I really enjoy sharing my photographs with friends, family, and anyone interested in looking at them on my Flickr page.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. I know not everyone agrees with everything he did, but I admire his genuine passion for wildlife and animals. I think he did a great job making people more aware and understanding of the animals that are not warm and fuzzy (e.g. reptiles and amphibians). It would be an absolute honor to be able to spend time with this legendary conservationist and wildlife warrior.

After graduation, I plan to…

…work at a veterinary practice that will allow me to work with both small animals (dogs and cats) and exotics. I would also like to be able to do some field work outside the hospital setting that will allow me to mesh veterinary medicine and herpetology. I look forward to being able to continue to help educate and increase awareness about the herps, wildlife, and animals I love.