An international nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of imperiled reptiles and amphibians has partnered with UGA to collaborate on conservation efforts for these species and their habitats.
The Orianne Society, a worldwide conservation organization, now is working with researchers from UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources on several projects that focus on the conservation of reptiles, amphibians and their habitats. Mike Clutter, dean of the Warnell School, said that by combining resources, UGA and the Orianne Society are able to collaborate more effectively on a global conservation initiative.
“We both have a serious and sincere interest in the conservation of these species,” he said.
The Orianne Society has a long history of working with a diverse number of interdisciplinary partners to develop and implement efforts to restore jeopardized herpetological species. The new collaboration with the Warnell School will allow the Orianne Society to build a stronger affiliation with researchers across UGA, Clutter said.
Often overlooked in conservation policies, reptiles and amphibians are vital to biodiversity on Earth as they help maintain the sensitive ecological balance within their ecosystems. They also play an important role in pest control, and the venom of some of these species may be used to treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes. However, many reptile and amphibian populations are declining due to habitat loss and degradation, disease and deliberate persecution.
“Conservation of reptiles and amphibians is important, just as important as the conservation of other species, but reptiles and amphibians are the ones that few people care about,” said Chris Jenkins, CEO of the Orianne Society. “Our partnership with UGA provides a strong force to promote and implement science-based conservation for these species.”
Researchers from Warnell and the Orianne Society have collaborated on several projects, and a UGA undergraduate student currently is conducting one of the first ecological studies of canebrake rattlesnakes in the Piedmont region. That species is declining rapidly throughout its range.
Members of the Orianne Society recently traveled to UGA’s Costa Rica campus to discuss potential international program partnerships, including the organization’s work with black-headed bushmasters.
In addition to the Warnell School, the Orianne Society is working with UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine on projects requiring surgeries, such as transmitter implants, and the organization also submitted the first case of snake fungal disease to UGA’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, or SCWDS, unit.
“Our partnership with UGA is an important step in advancing the conservation of imperiled reptiles and amphibians,” Jenkins said. “UGA gives us the amazing opportunity to work with some of the strongest students in the world and the opportunity to help develop some of tomorrow’s conservation leaders.”
The Orianne Society has established offices at White Hall Mansion, located in the 840-acre Whitehall Forest managed by the Warnell School for research purposes.