Intro PageClass_Intro.html
Lab PageLab_Intro.html


You are expected to attend every lecture and every lab. If at the end of the semester, students who have attended all or nearly all of the classes will be given a higher than average number of points for “subjective”. 

Any student with a documented disability who feels they may need academic adjustments or accommodation is requested to speak with the instructor by the second week of class. All discussions will remain confidential. 

Lecture Exams

There will be two lecture exams. The second exam will only include topics discussed after the first exam (i.e., non-comprehensive). The format will be mixed: matching, fill-in, multiple choice, short answer, and essay. Be prepared to synthesize ideas rather than just regurgitate information.

Literature Review (2)

You will review a paper from our list of papers, and prepare for a discussion of the paper. We will devote 20 minutes to class discussions of a paper from the current technical literature relevant to the study of herpetology. The readings will be assigned a week in advance. You will be quizzed on the discussion papers (usually before the discussion). You must bring a written question about the paper, and a summary in your own words (one page maximum) describing the main point of the paper as a starting point for discussions. The rationale for the written questions is to give you practice explaining in clear words what a research paper is about. During the discussion, we will select questions submitted by the class at random. If your question is chosen, be prepared to discuss it! Attentiveness and participation is expected during discussions. Above all, please speak out! You will NOT be graded on whether or not your question and comments rock the world of herpetology. Sometimes students are too shy in discussions because they are a little embarrassed about not understanding, or afraid of asking an obvious question. A colleague of mine put it this way, “As a scientist you will be paid to ask questions about things you do not know.” So go ahead, it’s no big deal.

The goal of our class discussions is to help each other understand current research topics in the broad field of herpetology, and to practice expressing our ideas. You will gain from the discussions if you read the papers, and ask questions or give opinions during the discussions. Practice asking questions that are good for discussion. Ask yourself what someone might be prompted to reply when you ask your question. For example, if we discuss a paper about evolutionary arms races between garter snakes and the toxic salamanders they feed on, someone may ask, “What is an evolutionary arms race?” The reply could be, “Look in the first paragraph. It is defined there.” A question that might be better for discussion might be something about evolutionary arms races that was not mentioned in the paper or might have been hard to understand. An example of this kind of question could be, “Is it only feasible to evolve predator-prey arms races when prey are toxic and sublethal?”, or, “What other kinds of traits and behaviors do herps posses besides toxicity that might stimulate predator-prey arms races? Could running speed coevolve between predator and prey for escape and pursuit?”

Research Project or Paper

Students may (a) write a term paper, or (b) collaborate in a group (up to 4 people) to conduct a research project and submit a report on that project (only one report for the group is necessary). Regardless, the paper or project can be on any topic in herpetology pending instructor approval

Written Paper

Students will individually write a paper on any topic in herpetology that has been approved by the instructor. The paper should be a thorough and up-to-date summary (with appropriate citations) of the topic. The length should be approximately 1600 words; not including literature cited. Papers that synthesize information into new ideas will be given better grades than those that simply summarize what is known on a particular subject. Papers will be reviewed first by your fellow students, rewritten to incorporate their comments, and then handed in for final evaluation. 

Research Project

Groups will conduct an original research project using local amphibians or reptiles, museum specimens, data published in literature, or other approved material. Projects can be conducted in the field, laboratory, as statistical or logical analyses, computer modeling, or whatever, but the projects must focus on issues relative to those discussed in lecture or lab. Students will design, implement, analyze data, or synthesize concepts for their own projects with comments, direction, and help from the instructor. The length of the report should be approximately 1600 words not including tables, figures, and literature cited.

Both types of research will be conducted outside of class time, but lab time will be used to discuss issues relative to the progress of the projects including tips for scientific writing and presentation.  Your group should select a topic of interest to everyone in the group.  Look ahead in the lecture text for ideas and important research questions herpetologists deal with.  Remember, some of the best research projects are simple, manageable investigations, and this is your opportunity to be creative and develop a project/ topic of personal interest.           

Oral Presentation on Project or Paper

Individuals or small groups will develop an oral summary of their paper or project, in a format using appropriate visual aides. Better presentations will be those that present the information in a clear, concise, and technically competent manner.

Make-Up Work

Under exceptional circumstances, and if arrangements have been made in advance, exams may be made up (usually before the scheduled exam). Assignments must be turned in on time on the predetermined date. Late assignments will not receive full credit.


Attendance and Graded Materials

Dimetrodon grandis

Dick Tracy