September 9th, 2018
Guest Speaker: Mark Beshel
Located: Jacksonville Museum of Science and History
Address: 1025 Museum Cir., Jax., FL 32207
Time: 3:00pm - 5:00pm.
I grew up in Philadelphia, relatively devoid of herpetofauna. Spent summers in Virginia, catching all sorts of small snakes, skinks, fence lizards, and amphibians. Little did I know I’d make a career of it…
In 1996, I graduated from W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science. I majored in small animal technology and aquaculture/environmental science.
In 2000 I graduated from Garrett College with a degree in Natural Resources and Wildlife Technology. This school is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, arguably the most diverse place for Caudata anywhere in the world.
My first animal job after graduation was volunteering as a wildlife rehabilitator. The work was rewarding, and I came to the realization that this is what I wanted to do; find a way to work with animals.
In 2001 I began my zookeeping career at a small zoo in central Maryland; the Catoctin Zoo. I primarily worked with large hoofed mammals, but assisted with bears, big cats, and a few others.
In 2002 I finally ascended to the ranks of herp keeper at the Baltimore Zoo; I spent over a year there working with native herps, crocodiles, all manner of turtles and tortoises, and amphibians.
Which brings us to now; I started working at Jacksonville in 2004, just before we opened Range of the Jaguar. I originally worked for Greg Lepera; among other things, he taught me how to correctly capture and restrain crocodilians, handle venomous snakes, and a few other things he’d probably not like me to mention! I’ve also worked with Dino Ferri and Steve Gott, both exceedingly knowledgeable and excellent leaders.
In 2008 the Zoo opened the “Save the Frogs!” Amphibian Conservation Center in effort to assist with the growing amphibian decline crisis; for which I am the primary keeper. We’ve had many successes; Puerto Rican Crested Toad repatriation, Striped Newt repatriation, and the most successful breeding program for waterdogs at any zoological facility.