Aspiring herpetologist to share scientific findings, outdoor experiences

Madden Haag is only 13 years old, but he is already well on his way to becoming a herpetologist — a scientist who studies amphibians and reptiles. 


Madden’s family moved to St. Johns from North Carolina. Before that, when Madden was much younger, they lived in California. His father, Michael, would catch frogs and lizards outside their homes and show them to his son. This, Madden said, is how his adoration for slimy and scaly animals began. 

“I think almost every animal is beautiful in its own way,” he said. Madden scouts several go-to places for critters — downspouts on the side of his house, storm drains, spots in his front yard, to name a few — where he usually finds smaller animals, such as frogs and anoles (lizards). He commonly stumbles across black racers and other snakes, too. Madden often carries his Sony camera and photographs the animals. 

“Pretty much the only thing I take pictures of is reptiles,” Madden said. “Of course, I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to take a picture of a fox or deer or something. But I don’t go out and look for those.” 

He then reads field guides and research conducted by professional herpetologists about each species he encounters and writes captions for his photographs. 

Madden collaborates with other aspiring herpetologists through social media. Madden and others his age share information about species they find through Instagram, and he also follows herpetologists on YouTube. He said it is an interesting way to learn about reptiles he would otherwise not be exposed to. 

“It’s cool to be in touch with people from all over the country,” he said. 

Madden hopes his efforts will one day lead to his dream job as a herpetologist. 

Madden will share his research and photographs with readers through a monthly column in the Saint Johns Sun. Articles will include photos of local species, along with a description of the animal and additional information about them.