UNCG Senior Lecturer in biology Ann Berry Somers is well-known figure in North Carolina herpetology and public service.
She is a past recipient of the Governor’s Award for Public Service, the Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award in Raleigh, the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCBAR) Distinguished Teaching Award in STEM Education, and has received the UNCG’s nomination for the Holhauser Award.
Now, she is the first woman to be inducted into the North Carolina Herpetology Hall of Fame, an organization she has served since its origin, including serving as president and chair of several committees over the 42 years.
Induction into the Hall of Fame is recognition for “Outstanding Contributions to Herpetology in North Carolina,” and the honor is bestowed intermittently. Somers is the 20th inductee.
Biologist for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Jeff Hall acknowledged Somers’ contribution at the annual meeting this November and afterwards.
“In addition to numerous scientific publications related to box turtles, bog turtles and several other reptiles and amphibians, Ann has developed many innovations in teaching and mentoring of young people,” said Hall. “She not only educates students, but also empowers them to go out and be active in the work of conservation. Ann is an outstanding North Carolina leader in the field of herpetology.”
Across the state, Somers is known for providing access to STEM education for a diverse population of young people, for wildlife conservation, and for her overall service to North Carolina. Much of that work is through programs and curricula that she, Catherine Matthews (UNCG), Terry Tomasek (Elon University) and others, created with the HERP Project grant. These curricula, available free for any educator or citizen-scientist introduce middle and high school students from across North Carolina to hands-on herpetology research and citizen science and are compliant with Next Generation Science Standards.
Somers spent 23 years serving on the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and 5 years as chair. For decades she has mobilized volunteers to survey and monitor reptiles and amphibians for conservation and sustainability programs. For example, 12 years ago she founded the Box Turtle Connection, a 100-year project which now has 32 sites across North Carolina. Volunteer efforts from that citizen science project have generated more than $1 million in matching federal funds for the state Wildlife Resources Commission as they amass one of the largest box turtle databases in the world.
“I enjoy providing the people of North Carolina with a sense of wonder about the natural environment and in so doing instill an understanding of the importance of wildlife in our shared world and shared future,” said Somers. “The Herpetology Hall of Fame Award is so meaningful because it is an honor given by the organization and people who know me and my work the best. I helped found the NC Herpetological Society in 1978 and have partnered with many of the members since that time.”
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications for UNCG News
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications