Herpetology

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Herpetology Field Course 2017

The research interests of KU Biodiversity Institute herpetology curators Rich Glor and Rafe Brown focus on far-flung countries such as the Philippines and Cuba, but this summer they led a team of students enrolled in a herpetology field course much closer to home, across several counties in Kansas. For two weeks, the students learned how to find frogs, salamanders and snakes, and how to catch them safely, prepare them, and bring them back to add to Biodiversity Institute research collections. Along the way, they pitched tents and camped, and learned more about the ecology and geography of Kansas. 

The course was created as a way to supplement what the students learn in the classroom and allow them to get that hands-on experience that really helps solidify understanding of the concepts, Glor said. The course is open to students of any level -- undergraduate and graduate -- and not just KU students either; the course welcomes students from any college to apply. The course also gives students a chance to see if they enjoy biodiversity field work and can endure the two weeks of camping. 

Photographers from KU Marketing and Communications joined the group for part of the trip and documented the students' experiences. 

"We are in a field where we love doing what we're doing," Glor said. "It's a lot of fun for us and it's a lot of fun for the students." The group surveyed, or looked for and documented specimens, in Barber, Cherokee, Douglas, Ellsworth, and Riley counties.

Collections manager Luke Welton said the group collected 127 specimens - 38 amphibians, 87 snakes and lizards, and two turtles. Many of these samples represent valuable county records for genetic samples, and a potential size record for Thamnophis sirtalis (red-sided garter snake).

 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Field Herpetology Summer Class 2016

From 30th May to 10th June 2016, the herpetology division held a field herpetology summer class designed to introduce students to the local herpetofauna and methods for conducting field surveys. We led 12 inspired students on a two-week long fieldtrip across six different counties in Kansas and managed to collect 44 different species of amphibians and reptiles. Here are some highlights from our trip:

Our journey began at the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) where the director of the station Dr. Eva Horne gave us a very informative tour about the research that was going on at the station. The KPBS is located in the Flint Hills on a 3,487 hectare native tallgrass prairie preserve jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. This was the students first introduction to herping and what better place to start than The Flint Hills! 

From Konza, we headed to Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands for a day before proceeding to Wilson Lake State Park in the Smokey Hills region of Kansas. Here, students got to try their hands at noosing lizards under the watchful eye of the noose master himself, Rich Glor. 

To cap off the first week of fieldwork, we visited the Sternberg Museum of Natural History and was given a behind-the-scenes tour by the collections manager Curtis Schmidt. 

For the second week, we headed southwards to Alexander Ranch in Barber County, led by  guest instructor Eric Rundquist. This was by far the most productive site where we managed to rack up 26 species in two days. 

Our next stop was Elk City State Park in Montgomery County where the highlight was three Rough Green Snakes! (Opheodrys aestivus). 

Our last stop for the trip was Shermerhorn Park in Cherokee County where we found our first salamanders and newt!

12 fantastic students -- two weeks in the field -- 6 counties -- 44 species, sums up an immensely successful class. Can't wait to do it again next summer!

For more photos, please visit the KU Herpetology flickr page