Animal Keeper, Herpetologist
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park
Year zoo career began:
Kyle Miller is a Keeper at the National Zoo’s Reptile Discovery Center. Kyle had been keeping birds, reptiles, and fish as a hobby his entire life, and became officially introduced to zoo careers while volunteering at the National Zoo’s Amazonia exhibit back when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. He went on to pursue his master’s degree in Zoo and Aquarium Leadership with a Conservation Education concentration while working as a Keeper at two other institutions prior to landing at the National Zoo. Today he provides primary care for a wide array of reptiles and amphibians ranging from palm-sized lizards to large crocodilians and venomous snakes. No two days are ever alike, and on any given day Kyle can be found doing everything from maintaining aquatic systems to collecting crocodile eggs. Kyle also has a strong background in both domestic and wild animal training; thus, he facilitates training programs for several of the species under his care, with a specific focus on the crocodilians. Some of the highlights of Kyle’s Keeper career at the Reptile Discovery Center include successfully propagating Fijian Banded Iguanas and Cuban Crocodiles and playing a leadership role in the installation of the brand-new Japanese Giant Salamander public display.
Outside of these day to day tasks, Kyle has dedicated a lot of his time contributing to in-situ conservation efforts. An elected member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Iguana Specialist Group (ISG), he has worked with the headstart program for the critically endangered Jamaican Iguana participating in the annual health screening and release of these animals into the wild. His recent travels have included Fiji, Honduras, and Cuba attending the ISG meetings and participating in conservation planning initiatives for Iguanid lizards. One of Kyle’s most significant successes was being awarded an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Conservation Grants Fund for a project researching the health and fitness of the breeding population of the Cuban Crocodiles at the Zapata Crocodile Farm in Cuba as part of a larger goal to improve husbandry, propagation, and release efforts in their native range. This is an ongoing project, and Kyle along with a collaborative team consisting of representatives from three other zoos coordinate travel to Cuba annually to carry out these efforts directly with the local researchers and husbandry staff in Zapata.
Relentlessly dedicated to being involved in all aspects of conservation science, Kyle also has played a significant role in multiple Smithsonian research projects. He has authored or co-authored several peer-reviewed papers. One of the most notable was in 2019 in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute’s conservation genomics team: “Parthenogenesis in a captive Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocinicinus) identified with novel microsatellites.” This was the first time parthenogenesis had been documented in this family of lizards. Kyle’s other papers have ranged on topics from monitor lizard tail adaptations to Cuban crocodile behavior and reproduction.