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RH man contributes to science, exhibit

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POSTED: December 8, 2010 10:28 a.m.
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Gerald Williamson, a resident of Magnolia Manor in Richmond Hill, holds a preserved salamander specimen.

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Ever enjoy watching snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders and alligators?
Thanks to Richmond Hill resident Gerald Williamson and others at the Savannah Science Museum, there is a herpetology exhibit on display until Jan. 30 at the Georgia Southern Museum in Statesboro.
Herpetology, the study of these cold-blooded animals, has long been a favorite activity for children and adults alike.
Williamson, a retired herpetologist and resident at Magnolia Manor, earned an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Afterward, he was hired as the biology teacher and soccer coach at Savannah Country Day School.
Later, he attended the University of Georgia and earned a Masters of Education degree, but he also kindled his interest in the natural history of the Georgia Coastal Plain and herpetology. In 1968, Williamson joined the staff of the Savannah Science Museum.
During his early years at the museum, he often led excursions of the “Herp Club” to sites in Georgia and South Carolina. These excursions were to locate and collect specimens that could be used for exhibits and local records.
As distribution records were collected, research on population studies began in South Carolina, primarily on the flatwoods salamander, where more than 600 specimens were tagged and released.
The flatwoods salamander has become a threatened species, but from 1977 to 1979, a number of flatwoods salamander sites were located at Fort Stewart during a survey of reptiles and amphibians.
As a result of more than 40 years of collecting, the collection grew to more than 35,000 specimens and has been added to the collection at Georgia Southern. The specimens are being re-tagged and put in new preserving fluids, and the records on the collection are being digitized.
The collection, which represents 95 percent of the reptiles and amphibians in Georgia, is being made available to researchers around the world.

 

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