09 07/09/2017

Meet Jonathan Holman

Reptile Intern

Jonathan is studying Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having done an internship on bushbabies prior to his placement year, he decided to apply for our primate internship. However, his passion for reptiles was noticed and he ended up being selected as our Reptile Intern instead.

Ectotherms reptiles use their environment to regulate their body temperatures which means they need specific habitats, suited for their thermic needs, when in zoos. Previous studies at Chester Zoo evaluated our Komodo dragon’s thermic needs with the use of high end thermal imaging equipment.

Reptile team
As the Reptile Intern, Jonathan also trained as a zookeeper within the Lower Vertebrates & Invertebrates Team

Jonathan’s study built on that work and assessed the optimal method for recording temperatures within our different reptiles’ species. He compared three tools used to measure temperatures: thermal imaging cameras, infrared laser thermometers, and data loggers which are harmlessly fed-to and swallowed by the animal and will record the information as it passes through the digestive track, after which it is retrieved from the animal’s poo.

Please could you tell us a bit more about your project?

“My study intended to find an affordable method to measure the temperatures of our reptiles and their habitats. I looked at the differences between infrared laser thermometers, data-loggers, and thermal image cameras. My findings show that the latter is a better indicator to know the animals’ core temperature than the point and shoot laser thermometers which was more variable owing to human errors. The data loggers were the most accurate, however, you can’t feed them to all our reptiles and the transmission rate was variable so it was a bit more challenging to use.  

Reptile team

“FLIR ONE, a phone mounted thermal imaging camera working in conjunction with a free app, came out best to find temperatures as well as to give thermal visuals of the heat which is really helpful!

“You may have thermometers within the reptiles’ habitats but they are only showing a spot temperature, meaning that they’re good if you get a big increase or decrease of temperature, however, you might have a cold spot or a hot spot that you wouldn’t notice. That’s why having a thermal image camera is brilliant, it’s much easier to understand because you see not just one spot but the entire habitat.”

How is this year going to help you with your degree and future career?

“I’m definitely leaving with a strong interest in herpetology and invertebrates! Also solving problems as they appear and improving the design of a project to make it right was definitely something I had not really looked into before.

“People always say that the change from high school to university is that you’re not prompted but actually at university, in my view, you are still very much prompted. During a work placement, I discovered that you only get prompted when something really needed to be done and had not been done.”

What is your best memory from this year at Chester Zoo?

“I really liked working with the butterflies! Coming in and experiencing all the different species to a point of being able to properly look after them is really enjoyable. Also seeing one of our Komodo dragon run at full speed was quite incredible to see! Usually you see them lazing around and you forget that they are actually predators, so seeing this dragon chasing something at full speed was really impressive.” 

Reptile team
FLIR ONE is a phone mounted thermal imaging camera working in conjunction with a free app