Founded in 2017, Save The Snakes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (EIN: 82-2680134) located in the USA. We steer and support snake conservation efforts through a community of passionate wildlife conservationists, which consists of our International and USA-based Team Members, Board of Directors, and Advisory Committee.
Save The Snakes Board Of Directors & Team Members
Longmont, Colorado, USA
Choti Singh developed a passion for wildlife and nature as a child. She spent her school years in India, Kenya, and rural Zambia. Among all the animal species she spent time with, Choti was especially drawn to snakes, as well as her early love of frogs! After pursuing a degree in Zoology with a focus in animal behavior, she conducted graduate research involving taste-choices in rodents, as well as maternal bonding in primates. She subsequently specialized in forensic psychology and working within the mental health field professionally, but has maintained her love for conserving wildlife and preserving the environment. She has traveled to Central and South America to photograph wildlife, and plans to return to Zambia soon.
St. Marys, Georgia, USA
Laura Gruber is the Conservation Training Programs Coordinator at White Oak Conservation Holdings LLC, where she oversees conservation related professional development programs, including the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL). As a 2014 EWCL graduate, Laura embraces the programs mission by promoting training and development opportunities that strengthen the capacity of conservation professionals through skills and leadership trainings. With a lifelong dedication to biodiversity and conservation, Laura has worked in the zoological and conservation field since 1999, where she has filled roles in education, outreach and animal care at the Zoological Society of San Diego and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Laura received her undergraduate degree with a BS in Biology from San Diego State University. As an admirer of lesser known species and an avid outdoors enthusiast, Laura spends her free time exploring North Florida’s wild spaces, caring for her menagerie of pets and sitting on the board of Papoose Conservation Wildlife Foundation.
“Why do I love snakes? I’ve always admired lesser known and unappreciated species, and snakes are definitely under appreciated. The wide variety found within the roughly 3,000 species of snakes is awe inspiring, alone the family Elapidae includes not only the largest venomous snake (the king cobra) but also entirely aquatic sea snakes! Unfortunately snakes instill fear in humans for a variety of reasons, but after enough chance encounters it’s hard not to gain a healthy respect for these amazing creatures that avoid conflict whenever possible and remove the rodents that so many of us consider pests.”
Sacramento, California, USA
Laura Patterson is the Statewide Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Her lifelong love of nature led her to obtain a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a M.S. in Biological Conservation. She began focusing on reptile and amphibian issues in 2000, particularly on the giant gartersnake, a threatened species endemic to the disappearing wetlands of California’s Central Valley. A large part of Laura’s current work involves participating in multiple-stakeholder groups to develop and implement strategies to research, monitor, protect, conserve, and recover sensitive amphibians and reptiles within sometimes complex regulatory, social, and political frameworks. She hopes bringing this experience to the Board will help Save the Snakes advance understanding, respect, and conservation of snakes across the globe.
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Dr. Wojnowski’s life-long passion for reptiles and amphibians, especially snakes, was enhanced by growing up in Tucson in the beautiful Sonoran Desert. One of his primary research interests is teacher’s perceptions of herpetofauna and the situational aspects of interaction based on knowledge, experience and culture. Dr. Wojnowski is also intrigued at how conceptual understanding of science concepts may influence curricular and pedagogical decisions made by educators.
During his doctoral studies at Kent State University, Dr. Wojnowski traveled to East Africa where he lived and worked with rural Kenyan teachers as he investigated their perceptions of snakes. While at the University of North Texas he continued his research in Kenya and co-facilitated a conference in Uganda entitled, Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Education: A Natural Link, as well as teaching undergraduate and graduate courses including project-based instruction, science methods, effective teaching and learning, and conceptual models of learning and instruction.
Now at Georgia State University, Dr. Wojnowski has continued working in Uganda partnering with the Bishop Willis Core Primary Teachers College’s Active Teaching and Learning initiative. As GSU’s Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education STEM endorsement program coordinator he teaches science methods, project-based learning and integrated science courses, as well as graduate level courses in the science endorsement program and a research seminar course for doctoral students.
“I hope that my work with Save the Snakes will afford me new opportunities to continue my life-long efforts to educate people and communities about the importance of sustainable practices and the harmonious coexistence of humans and snakes.”
Michael G. Starkey
President, Executive Director
Sacramento, CA, USA
Michael G. Starkey is a conservation biologist, ecological consultant and public speaker working to educate and involve the public in wildlife conservation issues. Michael has a diverse background in the field of wildlife conservation and he has worked as an ecological consultant for environmental consulting firms and government agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He has worked with a wide diversity of wildlife, including San Francisco gartersnakes, giant gartersnakes, California tiger salamanders, bats, ringtails and Yucatán black howler monkeys. Michael has developed and implemented community-based conservation initiatives which focused on the protection of wildlife populations in Belize, Ghana and India. Michael is the President of the Save The Snakes Board of Directors and serves as Executive Director. He uses his knowledge of snake ecology, positive attitude to inspire, and enthusiasm for snake conservation to engage the public with protecting these beautiful animals. Michael has given presentations around the world to inform the public about the threats facing wildlife and to help nurture a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Hiral Naik is a wildlife conservationist and researcher with a passion for reptiles and amphibians. She graduated with an MSc in Ecology and Conservation from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Her research focused on the evolutionary ecology of diet in the snake family Lamprophiidae. Growing up in Zimbabwe, India and South Africa, Hiral spent much of a time outdoors, which ignited her love for the natural world. She has worked with a diversity of wildlife including zebra, lemurs, bats, snakes, lizards and frogs and some of her most treasured moments are those spent in the African bush with thriving wildlife. Hiral’s other passion is travel, which led her to work with amphibians in the cloud forest of Peru. She also works as a research developer and education mentor for Wild Serve, an NPC focusing on urban biodiversity conservation and is currently researching the effects of urban environments on snakes and other reptiles. Hiral hopes to combine her passion for wildlife and travel to communicate the importance of reptiles and amphibians across the world. When she isn’t sitting behind a computer working for conservation, she can be found herping, scuba-diving, doing photography or out on some adventure.
Save The Snakes Advisory Committee
The Save The Snakes Advisory Committee is an international team of herpetologists, educators and naturalists dedicated to protecting the world’s snake species and furthering the wildlife conservation goals of Save The Snakes. The following members help us with technical guidance, field assistance and intellectual input.
Timm Juul Jensen
Timm Juul Jensen holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Copenhagen University specializing in Macroecology and Biogeography, and a M.Sc. in Biology from Aalborg University specializing in Herpetology. His main interests are herpetology and especially the conservation of snakes. Timm’s academic research has focused on quantifying international exploitation of snakes and to supply policy makers with results to base conservation decisions on. He has over ten years of experience in reptile husbandry and breeding. Timm has extensive field work experience in West Africa where he conducted research on quantifying the amount of snakes hunted for bushmeat. To learn more about Timm’s snake conservation efforts, connect with him on Linked In or view his work that was featured by National Geographic.
Dr. Kathayoon Khalil
Seattle, Washington, USA
Kathayoon Khalil, PhD is the Principal Evaluator for the Seattle Aquarium. Prior to joining the Aquarium, Kathayoon was the Director of Evaluation at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She received her PhD in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University, studying the use of social network analysis to understand how innovation spreads among the zoo and aquarium community.
Kathayoon started her career at as a teen volunteer at the Oregon Zoo and quickly developed a passion for wildlife and conservation. Through over a decade of work in zoo education, Kathayoon has implemented authentic approaches to evaluating visitor learning, including attitude and behavior changes that may have resulted from their visit. She has consulted on education and evaluation for a variety of zoos and aquariums throughout the country and serves as the champion of the AZA’s educational research and evaluation initiative. Kathayoon received her Masters of Environmental Science degree from the Yale School of Forestry and her Bachelors in Organismal Biology from Claremont McKenna College and is an alumna of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program as well as an instructor for Project Dragonfly at Miami University of Ohio.
Dr. Andrew Durso
Andrew Durso was born in New York and grew up catching snakes in North Carolina. He earned a B.S. in Ecology from the University of Georgia in 2009, an M.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University in 2011, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Utah State University in 2016. He writes a blog about snakes called ‘Life is Short, but Snakes are Long’. For more information about Andrew’s research, view his current list of publications here.
Giulia Ricciardi is a biologist, based in Florence, Italy. After earning a BSc in Biology at the University of Florence, she moved to Belgium and pursued a MSc in Biology with a specialization in Herpetology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. While studying and doing research, she got hands-on experience on reptile and amphibian husbandry at an animal facility, where she also had the opportunity to organize events to spread awareness about the importance of herpetofauna and bridge the gap between people and these often-misunderstood animals. Her early research mainly focused on animal behaviour and conservation. Currently, while still minding for those topics, her interests lie in snake antivenom research and in finding solutions to decrease the impact of snakebites worldwide.
Born in Cáceres, Spain, and a resident of Ecuador, Jaime Culebras is a biologist and professional photographer who dedicates his efforts to conservation and environmental education. He holds a masters in Environmental Education and another one in Biodiversity and Conservation in Tropical Areas. He has described six new species of frogs to science and he participates in multiple conservation and photography projects, like against illegal trade in wildlife, protection of amphibian and reptiles of the Choco rainforest and a reduction of snakebites accident, specially in South American. His photographic and scientific projects have been published in prestigious journals and he has received awards from numerous international photography contests such as: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Big Picture Photo Competition, Golden Turtle, Montphoto, GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, among others. To learn more about Jaime’s work, please visit his website.
Dr. Patrick Kinyata Malonza
As a biodiversity conservation biologist, taxonomist and a researcher, Dr. Patrick Kinyata Malonza works to further his skills in order to discover integrated natural resource management options that can save fast disappearing biological resources without compromising local peoples’ livelihoods. He has completed a Ph.D. in Natural Science at Johannes Gutenberg University-Mainz, a M.Sc. in Biodiversity at Addis Ababa University and a B.Sc. Wildlife management at Moi University. His research interests are mainly on reptile and amphibian taxonomy, biogeography and community ecology. In addition to these broad fields, he is specifically involved in public education and awareness on the importance of conserving snakes, snakebite management and prevention as well as the protection of key dangerous snakes that as a result of fear, traditional beliefs and perceptions are indiscriminately killed on sight in many rural areas.
Rogier van Rossem
Tilburg, The Netherlands
Rogier van Rossem was born in Tilburg, Holland. Being fascinated by reptiles and amphibians, his parents decided that Rogier could own one at the early age of six and his enthusiasm has grown ever since. From the age of 15 he got the chance to start working with these animals at exotic pet shop Kameleon (Tilburg). During the years, Rogier kept developing his animal husbandry skills through education and experience and is a strong advocate for animal rights and conservation goals. He now lives in Tilburg with his partner Ineke and their three children, Ocean, Darwin and Summer
Rogier began his professional life working with animals from a very young age, starting volunteering at the local animal shelter(s) from the age of twelve. He studied to become an animal husbandry professional as well as a veterinary assistant. He also studied dog behaviour and worked as an educational animal guide at “Safaripark Beekse Bergen”. At the age of seventeen he also started working as a veterinary assistant at animal hospital “Den Herd”. After a few years he made the decision to start working fulltime with reptiles and amphibians cause of his passion in this field. In 2005, he also started to give lectures and teaching courses on exotic animal behaviour and maintenance while pursuing various conservation goals. In 2007/ 2008, Rogier founded the Herpetofauna Foundation to further his ambitions in the field of conservation and education. From those years on he joined various advisory groups and worked on animal legislation and is frequently seen as lecturer on herpetological subjects.
Centerville, Massachusetts, USA
Kelly Donithan received her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona before moving to Florida to work as an Animal Care Specialist at White Oak Conservation Center. In 2012, she received her Master’s of Science in Conservation Medicine from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She worked briefly as policy analyst with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) before becoming the organization’s Wildlife Rescue Program Officer based at their headquarters on Cape Cod, MA. While with IFAW, Kelly targeted her efforts on the big cat crisis in the U.S., collaborating with wildlife sanctuaries, law enforcement, and other NGO’s to orchestrate rescues of big cats held illegally or in inappropriate conditions around the country. She also worked on a variety of wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and release projects around the globe and served three years on the Board of Directors for the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC). She is an alumna of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) program where she co-founded the Painted Dog Protection Initiative, aiming to reduce snare and road-related mortality of painted dogs in Zimbabwe. In 2015, Kelly moved to Vietnam to take on the role of bear manager at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Center in Tam Dao National Park. Kelly is now back in the U.S. and an independent consultant for various wildlife conservation and animal welfare organizations.
While gaining her roots in conservation in the deserts of Arizona, Kelly fell in love with reptiles and amphibians from an early age. As an undergrad, she co-founded and led the student chapter of the Tucson Herpetological Society and participated in related biodiversity research in both AZ and Ecuador during her undergraduate years. While her professional path has drifted from a herpetology focus, her respect and admiration for the cold blooded continue to this day! To learn more about Kelly’s wildlife conservation efforts, connect with her on Linked In.
Dr. Sara Ruane
Newark, New Jersey, United States
Dr. Sara Ruane is an assistant professor at Rutgers University-Newark in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her research is primarily based in reptile systematics and evolution. The Ruane Lab seeks to simultaneously inform reptile and amphibian systematics while also answering broad, contemporary questions in evolutionary biology. Some of Dr. Ruane’s current research focuses on the phylogenetics of the Malagasy pseudoxyrhophiines, as well as examining undescribed diversity in the poorly known New Guinea snakes. While her interests in herpetology are broad, she focuses mostly on snakes, especially with respect to systematics, phylogenetics, and phylogeography. To learn more about Dr. Ruane’s work, please visit her website.
Denver, Colorado, United States
Brian Aucone is Senior Vice President for Animal Sciences at Denver Zoo where he guides the direction of the Field Conservation, Animal Care, Veterinary Medicine and Animal Welfare programs. After receiving his biology degree at the University of Northern Colorado, and doing an internship at Denver Zoo, he went to work at the Dallas Zoo Herpetarium. From there he went to Oklahoma City Zoo as the curator of Herpetology then returning to Denver Zoo in 2010. At Dallas Zoo the animals under Brian’s care were lovingly referred to as the section of death, where 130+ of the 160 or so animals he cared for being venomous reptiles.
Brian has had a passion for snakes since he was a young child and, in spite of her fear, his mother nurtured this passion. Today he focuses on all taxa and still has that boyhood passion and awe for snakes. Brian has a long history with Southwest Partners in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation (SWPARC), working with this group from its inception. On behalf of SWPARC he leads the annual Phrynosoma mccalli biomonitor training at the confluence of California, Arizona and Mexico where this lizard is endemic. Brian has worked on wildlife conservation projects in Anegada, Vietnam, Botswana, Nepal, Peru and Mongolia with a variety of taxa, including herps, and he always takes advantage of discovering the local herpetofauna while there, even if they are not the focus of his work. Pictured is Brian with a Boa constrictor imperator whom has been his faithful companion for 29 years.
Dr. Jen Moore
Allendale, Michigan, United States
Jen Moore is an Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan U.S.A. Jen’s research focuses on spatial ecology, population demographics, and conservation genetics of at-risk species. Her lab aims to understand the factors that impact movement, functional connectivity, and population viability by focusing on research questions that that can be applied directly for conservation and management. One of Jen’s current focal research species is the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. To learn more about Jen’s research, you can follow her on twitter @DrReptilia or visit her lab website.
Jordi Janssen holds a Bachelor degree in Wildlife management from University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein, and an MSc. in Forest and Nature Conservation, with a major in Ecology, from Wageningen University. Jordi’s main academic interest are reptile ecology, human-wildlife conflicts, and global wildlife trade dynamics. Since 2015 he has been consulting on the trade of snakes and lizards in Southeast Asia and Asia for globally leading NGOs and founded Emoia Consultancy in 2017. His work on snake and lizard trade has been featured on Mongabay and in the New York Times. Moreover, Jordi has over a decade of experience in reptile husbandry and keeping of reptiles. For more information about Jordi’s research, view his current list of publications here.
Corvallis, Oregon, United States
Anne received her B.Sc. at the National University of Singapore, and M.Sc. at the University of Rhode Island. Her research has focused on herpetofaunal biology, ecology, and human-snake conflict in Southeast Asia, including anthropogenic impacts on parasite transmission in reticulated pythons, and effects of long-distance translocation on white-lipped pit vipers. Prior to starting a PhD at Oregon State University, she conducted three years of herpetofaunal inventory and monitoring surveys for the National Park Service in the northeast and mid-Atlantic United States. To learn more about Anne’s research, you can visit her website.
Steven is a currently PhD candidate at the University of Kent where his research focuses on the population dynamics of the barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) and the effects of snake fungal disease (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola). Steven holds a BSc Zoology from Anglia Ruskin University and an MRes in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation from Imperial College London. Steven’s main academic interests have been amphibian and reptile population monitoring and the influence of disease. Since 2018 he has been on the council of the British Herpetological Society and is intrinsically linked to amphibian and reptile conservation in the UK.
Ana Bottallo is a Brazilian biologist interested in the origin and evolution of squamate reptiles. She obtained her BSc in Biology at the State University of Sao Paulo and her MSc in Zoology at the University of Sao Paulo in 2016. Ana is currently developing her PhD thesis entitled “Origin and Evolution of Elapidae snakes with a special reference to the fossil record” at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. Her research focus are Paleontology, Herpetology and Systematics and her main interests are the origin and evolution of snakes. Ana is also an enthusiast of scientific communication and scientific journalism, and is the Editor-in-Chief to a scientific communication website called “Projeto Filos”, which attempts to make evolution and systematics knowledge available to the main public.
The elapid snakes are one of the families of “true venomous snakes”, and encompass cobras (and their relatives), coral snakes, kraits and sea snakes. Given their highly venomous condition, elapid snakes worldwide are facing population losses due to forest and ocean degradation and to the fear many of the human populations towards them, which puts them in danger. Understanding their evolutionary history and trajectory is of great value to the scientific knowledge and will aid in the construction of conservation efforts and to environmental education. Learn more about Ana’s research here.