New Course: Field Herpetology
Few places on earth can compare to the wealth of biodiversity found in the Amazon basin, which is particularly rich in reptile and amphibian species. Herping enthusiasts, biologists, and tropical ecologists alike will benefit from this unique opportunity to explore and learn about the natural history, anatomy, ecology, and conservation of Neotropical frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and turtles, all while living at an active research field station in Peru.
Unfortunately, climate change, disease, and other human activities are leading to rapid declines in reptile and amphibian populations. Understanding the challenges faced by conservationists in developing programs to protect these species is a crucial component of long-term protection of Amazonian biodiversity. This course will give participants advanced training in field techniques relevant to tropical biology research, with special emphasis on field exercises over classroom-based lectures. Students will use drift fence and leaf litter sampling, conduct transects, make audio recordings and more. We will also read and discuss selected literature on tropical ecology, applied research, and conservation issues pertinent to the the Madre de Dios region of Peru and beyond.
Each day, there will be early morning and late evening biodiversity hikes into the rainforest led by instructors Jen Stabile (conservation editor for the Herpetological Review, president of the International Herpetological Symposium) and Timothy D. Paine (herp photographer, conservationist, founder of AmphiBios). Participants will gain practical proficiency in the correct identification of reptiles and amphibians, as well as recognition of microhabitats native to the area.
In addition, participants will learn and be expected to adhere to best practices in biosecurity and safety while examining reptiles and amphibians in the field. On each hike, we will include a secondary focus for that day’s lecture and lab. These labs will highlight conservation of local herpetofauna, alongside the study of natural history. Program modules are designed to focus on local species and habitat, but can be easily applied towards herpetological conservation, research, and education anywhere in the world.
Special attention will be given to the roles of chemicals in herpetological studies, focusing on defense, food capture, aboriginal use, and modern pharmacology. Participants will also learn about the field of herpetology in general, exploring career options and implementing their own conservation and research proposals.
Since one of the instructors is an experienced wildlife photographer specializing in reptile and amphibian photography, those who bring their cameras can also receive a wealth of information on technique, useful tips, and field ethics. We will have many opportunities for photo sessions, ensuring that you bring home the best possible images of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Along the way, you will be able to recreationally canoe in a nearby oxbow lake featuring giant river otters and hoatzins, paddle through a palm swamp with dwarf caiman and potentially spot an anaconda, and climb a 60-meter tower overlooking the vast forest canopy where you can watch for macaws at sunrise.
This course is ideal for biology students seeking specialty training and field experience, those interested in tropical ecology and conservation, and/or herp enthusiasts of any background who want to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of reptiles and amphibians.
Course Dates: May 25th – June 7th, 2017
Registration: Course size is limited, spots are filled on a rolling basis until April 16th, 2017
Course Fee: $2100 (includes meals, lodging, and transportation from Puerto Maldonado to the field site and back)