Field Herpetology

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Juan caught a gravid newt! Notophthalmus viridescens, 5/15/2015
Matt proudly showing off his latest catch, Glyptemys insculpta, 5/14/2015
Glyptemus insculpta Photo by B. Ryerson
Crotalus horridus Photo by Sara Horwitz
Ambystoma opacum Photo by B. Ryerson
Chelydra serpentina Photo by B. Ryerson
Opheodrys vernalis Photo by E. K. Timpe
Gyrinophilus porphyriticus Photo by E. K. Timpe

EEB 3898 Special Topics: Field Herpetology
May Term, 2015
May 11th - May 29th
Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 12:00pm in TLS 179
Depending on weather conditions some classes will be held at night 7:00pm - 10:00pm instead, allowing us to observe nocturnal amphibians.

Field Photos!

Contents

Instructor

Andrew Frank
Email: andrew.frank@uconn.edu
Office: Biology/Pharmacy 322
Phone: (845) 728-6551
Office hours: by appointment, often right after class.

Course Description and Objectives

Course Description

Herpetology is the scientific study of the amphibians and reptiles. In this course, we will examine the diversity of both groups, and learn about their basic biology. Students will learn about the diversity, ecology, physiology, behavior, adaptation and identification of the local herpetofauna through direct field experience. There will be various opportunities to observe these animals in the field during the day and at night, through which students will become familiar with standard methods for surveying for and handling these species. Students will apply this knowledge by developing and carrying out a short independent research project.

Course Objectives

After completing this course the student will be able to:

  • Identify Connecticut’s amphibians and reptiles by sight, and in the case of frogs by sound as well.
  • Describe the biology of local species
  • Effectively use standard field techniques and methods for studying herpetofauna
  • Apply with proficiency the scientific method to assess questions and design and carry out a project pertaining to herpetofaunal biology.

Assignments

Project

Students will formulate and carry out an instructor-approved group research project using local Connecticut herpetofauna. Students are expected to identify a research question, develop a hypothesis, and test this hypothesis using field methods learned in class.

  • Students will independently prepare a report about their research project (5-7 pages, double spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font, 1 inch margins), including relevant background information, the materials and methods used, results of the experiment, results of any data analysis performed, and a discussion of the results.
  • Students will prepare a 15-minute presentation about their project with and present on the final day of class.
  • Students may work on the project independently, or with a partner. NOTE: Student who choose to work with a partner are required to submit separate and original project reports, but may give their presentation to the class together.
  • Both the paper and presentation will be graded on content, quality, and clarity.

Midterm

The midterm exam will be composed of short-answer questions based on Connecticut herpetofauna identification, the natural history of Connecticut herpetofauna, predicting occupancy of particular habitat types, field techniques, and lecture content.

Field Notebooks

Students are expected to keep a formal notebook for observations of Connecticut herpetofauna in the field. Field notebooks will be graded based on format (we will use the Grinnellian field notebook system), completeness, degree of detail in observations, and relevancy of details noted.

Course Procedures and Policies

Grades

  • Paper on project: 100 pts total
    • Project Proposal: 10 pts
    • Introduction & Methods Draft: 10 pts
    • Final Paper: 80 pts
  • Presentation on project: 100 pts
  • Midterm: 100 pts
  • Field notebook entries: 75 pts
  • Participation: 25 pts
  • TOTAL: 400 pts

Attendance

Due to the accelerated and intensive nature of this summer course (3 hours, 5 days a week, 3 weeks), full attendance is expected, barring any illnesses or emergency. Missing a single class is roughly the equivalent of missing an entire week of a course during a standard semester, so it’s very important that you attend every class.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism and cheating are violations of the student conduct code, and may be punished by failure in the course or, in severe cases, dismissal from the University. For more information, see Appendix A of the Student Conduct Code.

Disabilities

If you have a disability for which you may be requesting an accommodation, you should contact the course instructor and the Center for Students with Disabilities (Wilbur Cross Building, Room 201) on the first day of the semester.

Course Materials

Required

  • A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America 4th edition; R. Conant and J. Collins ISBN-10: 0395904528
  • Field Notebook – Bound field notebook (composition book is fine and cheap, or the “Rite in the Rain” notebooks)
  • Clothes you are willing to ruin

Recommended

  • Boots
  • Waders (Will be provided if you don't have any)
  • Headlamp (Will be provided if you don't have one)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray

Tentative Schedule

Date Lecture Field Agenda Additional Materials
May 11 Introduction, Syllabus, IACUC Training, Field Notebooks
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 1
Red & Green Trails into UConn Forest
Pdficon small.gif Old UConn Forest Map
Pdficon small.gif New UConn Forest Map
Archived UC Berkeley Field Notebooks
Pdficon small.gif Miller 1942, Field Notebook Guidelines (pg. 4-5 most important)
May 12 Amphibians of Connecticut
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 2
Hillside Environmental Education Park
Pdficon small.gif HEEP Trail Map
Pdficon small.gif Field Herpetology Project Ideas
Interesting salamander measuring project
Interesting toad measuring project
May 13 Reptiles of Connecticut
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 3
Fenton River / UConn Forest DEEP Amphibian and Reptiles Checklist
DEEP Factsheets on Protected Reptiles and Amphibians (Good CT specific background information)
May 14 Habitats and Field Techniques
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 4
Mansfield Hollow
Pdficon small.gif Mansfield Hollow Trail Map
May 15 PROJECT PROPOSALS DUE
Herpetology Systematics
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 5
Bigelow Hollow
Pdficon small.gif Bigelow Hollow Trail Map
May 18 NIGHT TRIP; Class begins at 6:30 pm
Amphibian Physiology
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 6
Fenton River / UConn Forest at Night Introduction and Methods Draft Guidelines
Pdficon small.gif Introduction and Methods Exemplar
May 19 Reptile Physiology
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 7
Albert E. Moss Sanctuary
Pdficon small.gif Albert E. Moss Sanctuary Trail Map
May 20 INTRO / METHODS DRAFT DUE
Locomotion
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 8
Mansfield Hollow Pdficon small.gif Project Exemplar 2
May 21 Feeding
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 9
Fenton River / UConn Forest Pdficon small.gif Midterm Topics
May 22 MIDTERM
Importance of Biological Collections
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 10
UConn Collections
May 25 Memorial Day, No Class Memorial Day, No Class
May 26 Amphibian Social Behavior and Reproduction
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 11
Bigelow Hollow
May 27 Reptile Social Behavior and Reproduction
Pdficon small.gif Lecture 12
UConn Forest, Red and Green Trails
May 28 Conservation Optional Trip:
Moss Tract ("the Dusky site")
Sawmill Brook Preserve
Pdficon small.gif Sawmill Brook Preserve Map
May 29 FIELD NOTEBOOKS DUE
PAPERS DUE
PRESENTATIONS

Web Resources

General Herpetology

Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
The Herpetologists' League
The Center for North American Herpetology
EMYSystem Online Turtle Resource
HerpNET
eNature Online Field Guides

Local

Snakes of CT
Online Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of CT
Reptiles and Amphibians of CT
New England Herpetological Society

Amphibians

Video about Amphibian Extinction
Amphibiaweb
AMNH's Amphibian Species of the World
Amphibian Portal from USGS-NBII

Conservation

Turtle Conservation Project - New England
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
New England Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Sea Turtle Conservancy
Turtle Conservation Fund
Amphibian Conservation Alliance
Most Threatened Turtles and Tortoises

Previous Courses

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