Meet Herpetologist Ned Gilmore

By Carolyn Belardo

Sometimes snakes just don’t get enough respect. They are often misunderstood and, frankly, they creep some people out.

With Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly showing in our Changing Exhibits Gallery through Jan. 10, 2016, we thought this was a good time to have a talk with Ned Gilmore.

Ned is manager of the Academy’s herpetology collection of more than 38,000 research specimens. He enjoys slipping away from his preserved specimens on the fifth floor from time to time to see what the live snakes and other reptiles are doing in the first floor exhibit.

Photo by Mike Servedio/ANS
Photo by Mike Servedio/ANS

My job at the Academy is ….. collections manager for the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. I manage four collections: vertebrate paleontology, herpetology, mammalogy, and minerology.

I knew I loved reptiles when ….. I was very young, and I used to see the older kids around my town with box turtles as pets. I was four years old when I caught my first toad, though toads are amphibians. It was at Lake George in New York, and it was a very large American toad.

On my first encounter with a wild reptile ….. I  was in Florida with my family, and I was six. I remember catching anoles, little green lizards, in small bushes with my hands. My mom loved all the animals I caught.

When I take a walk in the woods ….. I usually look down at the ground to see if I can see anything crawling around.

Turtles are cool because ….. they really haven’t changed in millions of years. It’s like you’re looking at something that a dinosaur could have seen.

My favorite specimen in the herpetology collection ….. is the giant ameiva (Ameiva ameiva) because of it’s bifurcated tail.

The giant ameiva with a bifurcated tail. Photo by Ned Gilmore/ANS
The giant ameiva with a bifurcated tail. Photo by Ned Gilmore/ANS

The main difference between a reptile and an amphibian is ….. amphibians have larval stages, while reptiles are pretty much born as smaller versions of adults.

Guests are coming for dinner, and you’re cooking up a reptile. It’s ….. I don’t know that I would ever cook a reptile. I don’t think I would ever eat a reptile, though I have tasted a bit of fried alligator. I don’t like snapper soup.

A Gila monster is ….. a venomous lizard.

The closest call I had with a reptile ….. was while I was doing a survey on a mountain top in Pennsylvania that was covered with ferns. Several large rattlesnakes began to rattle around me, but I couldn’t see them. Finally I was able to figure out where they were, and I took pictures of them.

Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly is ….. a nice exhibit that shows how diverse reptiles have become since they first evolved to fill several niches.

Snakes deserve respect because ….. they are a major control on populations of mice and rats in many places of the world.

If I found a snake in my boot I would ….. take photos of it.


So what do you think about snakes? Leave a comment if you’d like.


  1. I noticed that Ned Gilmore does presentations on fossils of the Philadelphia and South Jersey area. The Medford Historical Society (NJ) would be interested in hearing about this. Please contact me if Ned would be interested in speaking to us.

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