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Learning Herpetology in the Herpetology Class at the University of Arizona

Don E. Swann Editor, Sonoran Herpetologist, Tucson, Arizona. [email protected]

Herpetology class has a rich tradition at the

Kevin Bonine has taught EEB 483/583 each spring since 2002. His research and expertise include University of Arizona that features the late Charles H. energetics and locomotion as well as conservation, but a Lowe, who taught the class for decades. The tradition great strength of the class is that he also invites many local continues with the Spring 2006 Herpetology class, experts to speak. Since most of these folks are active in taught by Kevin Bonine. Although it has long had a reputation as being a very tough course with a grueling the Tucson Herpetological Society, it is worth listing lab and field schedule (the syllabus states plainly: "We them. This spring's syllabus features Taylor Edwards ask for a large commitment, in terms of time and effort, speaking about Goliath Frogs (Conraua goliath); Ed Moll on riverine turtles, Don Swann on leopard frog conservafrom each of you"), Herpetology is extremely popular. What do you learn in Herpetology? Many of us tion; Jay Meyers on ants and horned lizards; Matt Goode on destructive collecting techniques; Cecil Schwalbe on in the THS have probably never formally studied our alien species; Dave Prival on Twin-Spotted Rattlesnakes favorite subject. Herpetology, also known as Ecology (Crotalus pricei); and Evolutionary Eric Stitt on Biology 483/583, is species assema classic "ology" class, blages; Hans so some of the Werner-Herrmann lectures and many of on herpetofauna of the labs are a Vietnam; Matt rigorous exercise in Kaplan on amphibian and Yarrow's Spiny reptile taxonomy. Lizard (S. jarrovii) How is a lizard genetics; and Jim different than a Jarchow on tuatara (Sphenodon herpetological spp.)? How can you veterinary issues. tell a crocodile from Field trips an alligator? What are the memorable makes a Clark's feature of Dr. Spiny Lizard Lowe's classes that (Sceloporus clarkii) continue to the different from a Figure 1. UA Herpetology instructor Kevin Bonine with student Kristen Beaupre present day. Here, Desert Spiny Lizard marking a snake on Herpetology field trip to the Bouse Dunes, central Arizona. in spectacular (S. magister)? If you Photographer unknown. settings, students didn't already know, get to work hard in the sun, kick back in the shade, and you will learn it in Herpetology. learn about snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs in the great But a good Herpetology course explores the outdoors where they belong. This year's major trip is to entire universe of reptile and amphibian biology and the Bouse sand dunes, a haven for Sidewinders (C. brings students eye to eye with local critters. Lectures featured on this year's UA class syllabus include several cerastes), Desert Iguanas (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), Western Shovel-nosed Snakes (Chionactis occipitalis) and Mojave on evolution, and two each on biogeography, foraging Fringed-toed Lizards (Uma scoparia). Other trips, which ecology, and reproduction. Students learn how are optional but strongly recommended, include southern reptiles and amphibians respond to temperature, how they use and conserve water and energy, and how they Arizona locales such as the Tucson Mountains, ArizonaSonora Desert Museum, Happy Valley, and the Santa support themselves as they slither, swim, and burrow Rita Mountains. Students learn the skills of noosing through life. There are also sections on conservation spiny lizards and what the Desert Museum keeps behind topics, including global amphibian declines and alien the scenes, while interacting with professional herpetolospecies.



public meetings that relate to amphibians and reptiles, and this time of year a few of these young guests may be seen in the audience at THS general meetings. What do you learn in Herpetology? For a few students each semester, this class is an experience that tips a passing interest in amphibians and reptiles into a passion, avocation, or vocation. For many others, the content, learning challenge, and exposure to real critters, with insight, provides a basis for appreciating these classes of animals that will hopefully last far beyond the University walls. The growing ties between groups like THS and the academic world through classes like Herpetology benefit all of us. If you run into any students at the next THS meetings, please welcome them!

Figure 2. Students in UA Herpetology class on field trip to the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona, in 2004, with teaching assistant David Hall. Photo by Kevin Bonine.

gists like Stephane Poulin and Craig Ivanyi, and graduate students like Dave Hall and Erin Zylstra. This year's class also featured a visit (quickly becoming a tradition) to Roger Repp's field site for Western Diamondbacked Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) and Gila Monsters (Heloderma suspectum) north of Tucson. The students are given telemetry gear and a quick lesson and sent off in search of study animals. No field outing with Roger Repp is anything less than a plunge into real world experience, and (according to Roger) the 2006 cohort performed brilliantly. Students in Herpetology receive credit for attending spectacular settings, students get to work hard in the sun, kick back in the shade, and learn about snakes, lizards, turtles, and the great outdoors where they belong.


Figure 3. Students photographing a rattlesnake on field trip to Bouse Dunes in 2004. Photo by Kristen Beaupre.





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