Field Herpetology

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EEB 3898 Special Topics: Field Herpetology
May Term, 2015
May 11th - May 29th, 2015
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!


Andrew Frank
Office: Biology/Pharmacy 322
Phone: (845) 728-6551

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.



  • 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 prepare a short presentation about their project with their group and present on the final day of class.
  • Students will independently prepare a report about their research project, including relevant background information, the materials and methods implemented, results of the experiment, data analysis, and a discussion of the results. Both the paper and presentation will be graded on content, quality, and clarity.

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


  • Midterm: 100 pts
  • Paper on project: 100 pts
  • Presentation on project: 100 pts
  • Field notebook entries: 75 pts
  • Participation: 25 pts
  • TOTAL: 400 pts


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.


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) within the first week of the semester.

Course Materials


  • 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.


  • 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, Class Objectives, Field Notebooks Swan Lake, UConn Forest Archived UC Berkeley Field Notebooks
link={{{1}}} Miller 1942, Field Notebook Guidelines (pg. 4-5 most important)
May 12 Amphibians of Connecticut Hillside Environmental Trail
May 13 Reptiles of Connecticut Fenton River / UConn Forest
May 14 Environments and Field Techniques Mansfield Hollow
May 15 Herpetology Systematics Bigelow Hollow
May 18 Amphibian Physiology
Albert E. Moss Sanctuary
May 19 Reptile Physiology Fenton River / UConn Forest
May 20 MIDTERM / Importance of Biological Collections UConn Collections
May 21 Locomotion Mansfield Hollow
May 22 Feeding Fenton River / UConn Forest
May 25 Memorial Day, No Class Memorial Day, No Class
May 26 Reproduction Bigelow Hollow
May 27 Social Behavior Mansfield Hollow
May 28 Conservation Bone Mill Pond / Bicentennial Pond

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
eNature Online Field Guides


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


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


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