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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2015
DOI:10.5062/F4ST7MTC

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

[Refereed]

Science and Technology Resources on the Internet

Selected Internet Resources on Herpetology

Chapel D. Cowden
Health & Science Librarian
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chapel-Cowden@utc.edu

Abstract

Concerned with the study of reptiles and amphibians, the field of herpetology continues to grow in popularity with scientists, students, and the general public, who are drawn to these interesting creatures for a variety of reasons. This annotated webliography contains both links to and descriptions of a variety of Internet resources relevant to herpetology, including databases and data sets, associations and organizations, journals, news sources, and citizen science projects. The resources included are useful to a broad audience that might include librarians, researchers, students, herpetologists, and the general public.

Introduction

The diversity of the animal kingdom is staggering. Such abundance requires taxonomic division, and the discipline of herpetology is tasked with studying the classes Amphibia and Reptilia. The term herpetology arose from the Greek root herpeton, which means "crawling thing," and logos which implies reason or knowledge (Goin & Goin 1962). Both scientist and layperson alike long have been fascinated with these creeping, crawling, and often highly unusual creatures. While much has been written about these animals, few efforts have been made to produce a curated list of reputable, broadly applicable resources found on the Internet. Johnson and Roberts recognized this gap in 1997 and produced an annotated bibliography covering everything from museum collections to listservs. While this publication was relevant at the time, 18 years have passed and the need for an update has become apparent. As Vitt and Caldwell (2014) assert in their expansive text Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Reptiles and Amphibians, there has never been a greater interest in the study of herpetology. There is indeed an increased global interest in reptiles and amphibians and a growing urgency to develop conservation programs for disappearing habitats and species. It is this climate that illuminates the need for an updated and comprehensive resource that defines important and credible sources for herpetology-related information and research on the Internet.

Scope & Methods

Interest in the field of herpetology, like many other animal-related fields of study, is broad. This guide seeks to appeal to the academy through librarians, professors, researchers, and students of biology and/or herpetology. It should prove equally useful to professional herpetologists working for government entities, conservation organizations, zoological facilities, or other such organizations. Finally, anyone with an interest in herpetology will be able to find sources that help to broaden their knowledge and understanding of reptiles and amphibians as well as the discipline of herpetology as a whole.

Though the field of herpetology is a unified discipline in many respects, reptiles and amphibians tend to be separated from each other, and each of these designations is in turn split further into order and family (e.g., reptiles are separated into lizards, crocodilians, etc.). Every attempt was made to include resources relevant in some way to both of these classes. While a wealth of excellent sources at the genus and species level exists, it is beyond the scope of this guide to attempt to cover this ground.

This guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to include a wide variety of useful sources, both broad and specific, which will prove helpful to the professional and layperson alike. To this end, many types of sources were considered, including: databases and data sets, organizations, journals, news sources, and citizen science projects. A wide range of content providers were also reviewed, including: government entities, conservation organizations, zoological facilities, colleges and universities, non-profits, and publishers. In addition, several herpetology mailing lists were contacted to solicit for suggestions.

Sites included in this bibliography were selected based upon many factors, including: quality of information provided, credibility, usefulness to a broad audience, and a strong focus upon conservation. Additionally, to be included, evidence had to exist that the site was current and updated on a regular basis.

Databases & Data Sets

The following list incorporates both databases and data sets. The selections are subdivided into resources that contain information on many species, including reptiles and amphibians (Databases/Data Sets: General), and resources that are specific to reptiles or amphibians or both (Databases/Data Sets: Herpetology Specific).

Databases/Data Sets: General

Animal Diversity Web
http://animaldiversity.org/
Managed by the University of Michigan, the Animal Diversity Web (ADW) is an online database containing information on the natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology of a diverse array of animal species. It provides a wealth of information, in the form of text, images, recordings (audio and moving image), and links for thousands of species. Students at dozens of colleges and universities almost exclusively provide the content presented in the ADW. Templates are provided to ensure consistency, while professors and ADW staff check all records before publication on the site.
 
Encyclopedia of Life
http://eol.org/
Conceptualized in 2007 with the idea of providing "a web page for every species," the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) provides extensive information, from kingdom down to species, gleaned from museums, scientists, and other contributors. The EOL covers animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria, and seeks to someday provide information on every named species on Earth. Records for species can be extensive and contain such details as habitat, lifespan, reproductive facts, classification, images, maps, and much more.
 
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
http://www.gbif.org/
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is a large, open access repository of biodiversity data that represents a collaboration between global government organizations, researchers, and citizen scientists. The GBIF is governed by a board consisting of members of each participating country. Data is available on more than 1.5 million species and represents over three centuries of scientific fieldwork across the globe. Records can be easily downloaded and are searched by occurrences, species, datasets, or countries. Individual countries may also be selected for an exploration of trends through summary reports of available data. Some of the most outstanding features of this resource are the geo-referenced maps that can be used to zoom in on any area across the globe and examine the biodiversity records for a very specific piece of land. While the GBIF is massive, it is not as easily navigated as some of the other resources profiled in this guide. Despite the learning curve necessary for using this database, it is still worth exploring for its valuable data sets.
 
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is aptly described on its web site as being "widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective, global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species." The web site for the List allows the user to search for animals based upon their conservation status: Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, and Extinct. The database is also searchable by species name (any portion of the taxonomic name or common name), location, habitat, etc. Individual records include species information, classification schemes, assessment information, habitat details, threats, conservation actions, and an extensive bibliography amongst other information. The List's web site also has an extensive set of resources that detail how conservation status is determined.
 
VertNet (formerly HerpNET)
http://www.vertnet.org/
VertNet is an NSF-funded collaboration that seeks to provide access to biodiversity data; herpetologists may be more familiar with HerpNET, which has now merged into VertNet. VertNet's purpose is to serve as a mechanism by which people can discover, capture, and publish biodiversity data. To assist in this goal, VertNet collocates hundreds of biocollections from museums and universities across the globe. The site is easily searchable and includes an advanced search feature that allows more complex, fine-tuned searching across datasets. Search results are downloadable. Most individual records have extensive collection information including location (with latitude and longitude), preservation method, year collected, etc. Extensive help guides cover all information that a researcher might need to both search the portal and/or submit data.
 

Databases/Data Sets: Herpetology Specific

Amphibian Species of the World
http://research.amnh.org/vz/herpetology/amphibia/
This database, hosted by the American Museum of Natural History, is a bare bones taxonomic account of amphibian species of the world. The intention of ASW has been to cover the current taxonomic literature and the state of evidence, not the opinions of self-appointed experts. The search functions provided include a basic search and a guided search, either of which will lead you to the taxonomic tree for the species (or family, etc.). Links within the tree will allow the user to explore information such as distribution, common names, species comments, and other information (which varies by record). Despite the very narrow information provided in this database, it is an excellent place to verify current information on taxonomy.
 
AmphibiaWeb
http://amphibiaweb.org/
AmphibiaWeb was created in the year 2000 as a product of the Digital Library Project at the University of California, Berkeley. AmphibiaWeb's aim is to provide information on amphibian declines, natural history, conservation, and taxonomy as well as provide a "home page" for every species of living amphibian. To date, the site contains information in a variety of formats (video, audio, species accounts, photographs) on over 7,300 species. The database is easily searchable with a very detailed advanced search feature that allows searching in a variety of ways--scientific name, common name, country, IUCN category, etc. Many records include detailed distribution maps with attached observation accounts. Text-based accounts include descriptions, distribution and habitat, life history, threats, and a list of references, amongst other information. Some records also pull from IUCN and other organizations for additional information. The extent of species accounts offered and the ease of searching this database make it a standout for amphibian research.
 
CrocBITE
http://www.crocodile-attack.info/
CrocBITE provides a unique set of data that is not covered in detail elsewhere: crocodilian attacks worldwide. The site's stated ultimate goal is "to improve human safety and assist conservation of crocodilians by improving our understanding of risk factors and trends over time for different species in different countries." The web site administrators are quick to point out, however, that the database is certainly not comprehensive, but attempts to gather information broadly and as accurately as possible. The centerpiece of CrocBITE is the incident database that can be searched in a variety of ways. An excellent section on "How to Search" provides instructions for using the database efficiently through the simple search or advanced search features. A user of the site can search by date of incident, outcome (fatal, non-fatal, etc.), species, country, sex or age of victim, or size. Not all data is known for each incident however--something to keep in mind when searching by age of the victim (often unknown) or size of the animal (usually unknown). Each record in the database includes a wealth of information about the attack--usually a map, a narrative, the scan of the newspaper/source, and incident details. Also included is a section on precision and certainty of the data, or how certain the administrators are of the accuracy of the data. This database is uniquely informative and represents a valuable addition to the research in understanding human-crocodilian interactions and ways in which to make those interactions safer.
 
The Reptile Database
http://www.reptile-database.org/
The Reptile Database is a credible, well-conceived effort to catalogue all living reptile species. It is maintained regularly by Peter Uetz, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and volunteers. The database is no frills, and includes only taxonomic information, synonyms, types, distribution, and literature references. It is, however, easily searched and meticulously researched. NOTE: You will need to know the family or subfamily if you are researching a particular species. Once the family is located, the user can drill down to species from there.
 

Organizations

While an enormous number of quality, herpetology-related organizations provide a notable web presence, it is beyond the scope of this guide to review them all. A very select few were chosen for inclusion based upon popularity (national and international recognition), contributions to the field of herpetology, and the perceived value of the content provided on the organization's web site. Readers will note that several, but not all, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's reptile and amphibian related specialist groups are included in this list. Those selected for inclusion all include significant or unique information on their associated web sites.

American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
http://www.asih.org/
The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) is a well-respected society dedicated to the scientific study and conservation of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles. The web presence for ASIH describes all aspects of the Society--members, projects, documents, etc. While the web site does not include species information, it does contain some unique offerings that will be useful to a broad range of herpetologists. First, the web site hosts a large image bank full of high-quality images that it encourages the use of (with proper attribution) for educational pursuits (presentations, class use, etc.). Another defining feature with broad use applications is the "Jobs" section of the site, which posts all types of herpetology/ichthyology and related jobs; these jobs can be narrowed by category, including student positions, postdocs, tenure track, etc. Finally, the Society maintains a page dedicated to news in the field. This page allows herpetologists and ichthyologists at all levels to view news of interest--everything from obituaries to conference registrations to scholarship programs are presented in sequential order or can be filtered by topic.
 
Amphibian Specialist Group/Amphibian Survival Alliance
http://www.amphibians.org/
Amphibians.org is home to both the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) and the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA). The web site for these organizations is well-designed, boasting impressive graphical elements like timelines, interactive maps, photographs, etc. The work done by these two groups is broad, and the web site reflects that broadness through emphasizing overall goals and partners. Specific projects can be explored using an interactive map or selecting from a pictorial list. Campaigns in which the ASA and ASG are involved offer another way to explore amphibian-centric research. One of the standout features of the site is the magazine of the ASA offered in digital form through Issuu, offering a wealth of conservation-oriented information. The site also boasts an excellent blog, which is updated regularly and is full of interesting articles on species conservation, events, research, species updates, etc. There is a lot here for the layperson interested in amphibian conservation, and while it provides little concrete advise for conservation activism, it's still a must-view for those interested in amphibian conservation and research.
 
Crocodile Specialist Group
http://www.iucncsg.org/
Like the Amphibian Specialist Group, the Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) is an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-based organization comprised of a network of biologists, government officials, NGOs, farmers, traders, etc., that are involved in the conservation of crocodilians worldwide. The CSG's web site contains a great deal of well-referenced material on crocodilians including species accounts and fact sheets, crocodilian biology (including classification, evolution, etc.), crocodilian attack information, human-crocodile conflict avoidance, farming, and the crocodile industry, among other subjects. The site also includes numerous downloadable publications, such as the CSG's newsletter, proceedings, committee minutes, reports, action plans, and general articles of interest. Under the tab "Multimedia," the CSG has a carefully curated bibliography with articles considered by the CSG to represent vital references on living and extinct crocodilians. A separate bibliography gives key literature for each of the 23 species of living crocodilians. This feature alone makes the web site a great asset for deep crocodilian research. The extensive list of relevant links will be useful to a variety of users as well. The CSG's web site is a must-visit for all who are interested in crocodilian conservation and biology.
 
Iguana Specialist Group
http://www.iucn-isg.org/
The Iguana Specialist Group (ISG) is yet another IUCN branch comprised of a network of laypersons and experts in the field of iguana biology and conservation. The ISG's web presence includes the usual organizational information, news on specific research projects, action plans, newsletters, and taxonomies. Novel on this site, however, is a searchable database, called the Iguana Specialist Group Virtual Library, comprised of publications, press releases, and media files. This library is full of articles of all sorts and offers access to full text for many of the records. If an article does not immediately have full text available on the site, researchers are encouraged to contact ISG to receive the full text. This database is a must for anyone conducting research on iguanas.
 
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
http://www.parcplace.org/
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) touts itself as an inclusive organization comprised of individuals from widely ranging walks--including state and federal agencies, museums, conservation organizations, zoos, academia, research labs, the energy industry, etc. PARC's focus is more habitat-oriented than organismal, evidenced in its web site's focus upon habitat. While the web site is not chock-full of data about reptiles and amphibians, it does cover some ground that may not be found on other major herpetological organizations' web sites. PARC has developed a great statement on climate change and herps and has four ongoing projects to assist in the communication of adaptation management techniques--some of which involve brochures and other print materials freely available on their web site. The PARC site has also gathered a list of grants relevant to the field of herpetology--an excellent resource for those seeking funding. Another standout page of information includes lists of regional experts in reptile and amphibian conservation and links to their web sites. The site also presents an impressive list of links/resources that includes state organizations, databases, herpetoculture sites, conservation, amphibian-specific resources, reptile-specific sources, research laboratories, herpetology journals, and atlases.
 
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
http://ssarherps.org/
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR) was founded in 1958 and is now the largest herpetological society in the world. Its online presence is rich in useful, up-to-date information for the professional and layperson alike, including such highlights as the 2014 checklist of the scientific and common names for North American reptiles and amphibians (older versions also available). The "All About Herps!" section of the web site yields the most unique and valuable information presented on the site. This section gives detailed accounts from well-known industry names on how to become a herpetologist, provides a web form where visitors to the site can ask herpetology-related questions (answered by experts), and a "Resources" section compiling many pages of Internet resources from museums to maps and beyond. The site also provides a promising new blog with both original posts and aggregated feeds for all things herpetology. Rounding out the web site's offerings is a page dedicated to an exhaustive listing of regional herpetological societies.
 
Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group
http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/
An IUCN group working towards conservation of turtles and tortoises, the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) provides several excellent features on its web site. One major feature of the site is a digitally accessible copy of the work Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. The site also boasts a definitive checklist, published annually, of turtle taxonomy, distribution, and conservation status, as well as a database of taxonomic literature. While the site as a whole is not particularly easy to navigate, it has strong resources compiled by the world's leading turtle and tortoise researchers and will prove invaluable to the researcher or enthusiast.
 
Turtle Survival Alliance
http://www.turtlesurvival.org/
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) was founded in 2001 in partnership with the IUCN as a response to the Asian Turtle Crisis, the unsustainable harvesting of turtles for markets in China. The TSA's web site boasts an excellent accounting of turtle/tortoise research projects that can be explored either by region or by species. The web site also provides many ways that individuals of all ages and abilities can get involved in turtle conservation--a feature missing on many other society web pages. The TSA's blog is accessible on the site and is frequently updated with well-written accounts from both the field and the Alliance's brick and mortar facility. The site also provides open access to all of the Alliance's newsletters and digital copies of its yearly magazine, Turtle Survival. A well-curated section of links, a small video library, and conference abstracts for the Alliance's annual conference round out the thoughtful offerings from this web site.
 

Journals

Following is a select list of herpetology-specific journals. While many excellent international journals related to the field of herpetology exist, the journals found below were published in the United States, Canada, or England out of the necessity to keep the list brief. While the journals listed are largely not open access, it is worth providing a list of them here for those who might be interested in pursuing access either through personal subscription or institutional access. Those journals that are open access are noted as such.

Amphibia-Reptilia
http://www.brill.com/amphibia-reptilia
Amphibia-Reptilia is published by the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) and covers peer-reviewed research, book reviews, news, and briefs on many herpetological topics.
 
Chelonian Conservation and Biology
http://www.chelonianjournals.org/
A publication of the Chelonian Research Foundation (CRF), Chelonian Conservation and Biology is a peer-reviewed, bi-annual journal dedicated to turtle and tortoise research. Some limited access is available to the online journal for those who are not members of the CRF.
 
Copeia
http://www.asih.org/publications/copeia
Copeia is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and is available both electronically and in print. This quarterly journal primarily contains original research on fishes, amphibians, and reptiles.
 
Herpetologica & Herpetological Monographs
http://www.hljournals.org/
Herpetologica is a scholarly, quarterly journal of The Herpetologists' League, containing original research and issues relevant to the field of herpetology. Herpetological Monographs is an annual supplement containing longer research articles, syntheses, and special symposia.
 
Herpetological Conservation and Biology
http://www.herpconbio.org/
This journal, founded in 2006, is open access and fully available online. It is comprised of original, peer-reviewed research, reviews, and editorials.
 
The Herpetological Journal
http://www.thebhs.org/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=42
This peer-reviewed, quarterly journal is a publication of the British Herpetological Society and contains the expected content of research articles, editorials, reviews, and book reviews. Issues are available electronically from 2005 on and back issues prior to this time can be ordered through the web site.
 
Herpetological Review
http://ssarherps.org/publications/journals/herpetological-review/
Herpetological Review (HR) is a peer-reviewed, quarterly publication of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. HR publishes articles and notes on the study of herps, book reviews, commentaries, news, and letters from readers. HR's sister publication, the Journal of Herpetology, publishes experimental research and taxonomic revisions.
 
The Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery
http://jherpmedsurg.com/
The Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians in conjunction with Allen Press. The journal's reported interests include all aspects of amphibian and reptile care and maintenance in captivity, natural histories, and specific medical and surgical issues.
 
Journal of Herpetology
http://journalofherpetology.org/
The peer-reviewed Journal of Herpetology is published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and contains research and editorials on a wide range of herpetological interests including ecology, conservation, morphology, behavior, etc. Its sister publication, Herpetological Review, publishes book reviews, news, commentaries, and other non-experimental articles on herpetological topics.
 

News Sources

Though many of the resources covered in this guide (especially in the Organizations section) include news components, there are a couple of additional news sources of note worth adding to the mix.

HerpDigest
http://www.herpdigest.org/
HerpDigest touts itself as the "only free electronic newsletter reporting the latest news on reptile and amphibian science and conservation." Interested parties simply visit HerpDigest's web site and sign up for the newsletter, which is disseminated by email on a weekly basis.
 
Science Daily
http://www.sciencedaily.com/
Science Daily is a web site that covers "breaking news and videos about the latest discoveries in health, technology, the environment, and more -- from major news services and leading universities, scientific journals, and research organizations." Most stories will include a synopsis or a formal abstract and a citation for the full article. The site is easily searchable for articles on any area of interest in the sciences, including herpetology. Science Daily also allows users to subscribe to pre-configured RSS feeds in a wide array of interests, including a feed on "Frogs and Reptiles." This is an excellent and highly recommended way to keep abreast of the newest research and news in the field of herpetology.
 

Citizen Science

Citizen science projects have garnered much attention in recent years and serve as amazing bridge builders connecting people to the natural world. Citizen science projects have also provided a wealth of species data that could not be collected in any other comprehensive way. There are many great programs, especially at state or regional levels, that include reptiles and amphibians, but to conserve space the few projects listed here are broader in scope.

FrogWatch USA
https://www.aza.org/frogwatch/
FrogWatch is a citizen science project created and overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for over 15 years. The project encourages groups and individuals to report data on local frog and toad calls during the months of February through August. Most areas have a local chapter, which can be found through the FrogWatch web site. Data can be entered and viewed through this web site.
 
HerpMapper
http://www.herpmapper.org/
A fairly young citizen science project, HerpMapper collects data on reptiles and amphibians globally. Information can be captured with an app on a data collector's cell phone and uploaded directly to the HerpMapper site or through a home computer. Images are required for species verification.
 
North American Amphibian Monitoring Program
https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp/index.cfm
The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) is a citizen science project developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Its purpose is to mobilize citizens to collect data useful in the evaluation of frog and toad population trends. Data collected can also be explored on the site for NAAMP.
 
Snapshots in Time
{http://www.oriannesociety.org/snapshots-time-tracking-wood-frog-and-spotted-salamander-breeding}
Snapshots in Time is a project of The Orianne Society, an organization dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the wild and the habitats critical to their survival. Snapshots seeks to gain data on the timing of Spotted Salamander and Wood Frog breeding throughout their natural ranges. It is considered a long-term project aimed at examining possible effects of climate change upon the timing of reproduction in these two species. Participants are encouraged to gather data year after year if at all possible.
 

Additional References

Goin, C.J. and Goin, O.B. 1962. Introduction to Herpetology. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Johnson, W.T. and Roberts, C. 1997. Herpetology resources on the Internet. Science & Technology Libraries, 16 (7), 55-63. doi: 10.1300/J122v16n02_06

Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. 2014. Herpetology: An introductory biology of amphibians and reptiles. San Diego: Academic Press.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the serpent, amphibtalk, chelonian, and lag mailing lists of the American Zoological Association for hearing my request and expressing support in this project. And much gratitude to my husband, the professional herpetologist and researcher, who answered many of my questions, reviewed my resource list, and put me in touch with other herpetologists.

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