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 Grinellian 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


Date Lecture Field Agenda* Additional Materials
May 11 Introduction, Class Objectives, Field Notebooks Swan Lake, UConn Forest Archived UC Berkeley Field Notebooks
Notebook entry from Monday
May 12
May 13
May 14
May 15
May 18
May 19
May 21
May 22
May 26
May 27
May 28
May 29

Additional Resources



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

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

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