October Herping in Costa Rica!


Herping in Costa Rica. Left to right: Michelle Thompson, James Stroud, Alex Belisario, and Luke Linhoff

FIU PhD candidate Michelle Thompson has been working extensively in Costa Rica for several years. James, Alex, and mysel gave Michelle a visit at La Selva Biology Station. We had some great times and solid hikes. Below is a beautiful Phyllobates lugubris, Michelle found us. One of three species of poison frog found at LSBS, and by far the hardest of the three species to find! Thanks Michelle for being a great guide and showing us your field sites!


Phyllobates lugubris (photo by Michelle Thompson)


FIU herpetology shows strong conference representation for summer 2016



A few of us at ESA 2016!  Front Row: Michelle E. Thompson,  Lilly M. Eluvathingal, Dr. Robert Hegna (MS FIU 2009). Back Row: Maureen A. Donnelly, Dr. Kristie E. Wendelberger (PhD FIU, 2016), Luke Linhoff, Michael R. Britton, Dr. James I. Watling (MS FIU 2000, PhD 2005), Kelsey E. Reider , Julia Laterza (a MS student with James Watling

FIU herpetologists have been very busy this summer with numerous presentations at multiple academic conferences (13 in the last two months?). In case you missed us, here are the titles of some of our work presented this summer by current FIU herpetology members. There were numerous other talks from previous FIU herpetology grads that are not listed. Congrats to all!!


*note* co-authors on contributed presentations are not listed below, only the presenter.


Conservation Asia 2016 (Singapore) 29 June – 2 July 2016

Luke Linhoff – Oral talk:  “Developing best practice guidelines for amphibians ex situ conservation and translocations”

Luke Linhoff  – Poster + 5 min speed talk:  “Captive versus wild: The spatial ecology of critically endangered Wyoming toads following reintroduction”


Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists  (New Orleans, LA)  JULY 6-10, 2016

Maureen Donnelly – oral talk (30 min): “ASIH through the Secretary’s Prism – 100 years of work laying a foundation for the next 100 years”

Michelle E. Thompson- oral talk: “Recovery of Amphibian Communities in Regenerating Forest: Two Case Studies in Riparian and Upland Habitats of Secondary Forest, Costa Rica”

Luke Linhoff – oral talk: “Developing the new IUCN Amphibian Conservation Translocations and Reintroduction Guidelines”

Luke Linhoff – poster:  “Captive versus wild: The spatial ecology of critically endangered Wyoming toads following reintroduction”

James Stroud – oral talk:  “Social networks and species coexistence of Anolis lizards”


Ecology Society of America (Fort Lauderdale, Fl) August 7 -12, 2016

Maureen Donnelly – oral talk: “Community engagement in amphibian and reptile research as a path for the new century”

Lilly Eluvathingal – oral talk: “Conservation activities in tropical plantations: A case study of tea plantations from the Southern Western Ghats”

Kelsey Reider – oral talk: “Climate change, rapid deglaciation, and amphibians at extreme elevations in the tropical Andes”

James Stroud – oral talk: “Lizards on the Loose”: Harnessing the citizen science power of high school students to conduct herpetofauna surveys

James Stroud – oral talk: “Exploring the importance of priority effects on range dynamics and community assembly patterns”

Luke Linhoff – oral talk: Captive versus wild: The spatial ecology of critically endangered Wyoming toads following reintroduction

Best talk award at JMIH!

FIU PhD candidate Michelle Thompson was awarded best student presentation at the 2016 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists!


Her excellent talk was titled:  Recovery of Amphibian Communities in Regenerating Forest: Two Case Studies in Riparian and Upland Habitats of Secondary Forest, Costa Rica

Congratulations Michelle!

Back in Singapore! Species profile: Forest Greenback (Hydrophylax raniceps)


I am back in Singapore, and once again, in the forest every night! I am very excited for the research going on here, and I didn’t realize how much I missed being in the tropics! Singapore has surprisingly good herp diversity. It makes every night a treat with good chances of seeing many different species.

Here is a very cute frog, the Forest Greenback (Hydrophylax raniceps). Greenbacks are a small Ranid that happens to be semi-arboreal. In some areas within the Central Catchment area of Singapore, this species may be the most common species encountered on a wet night when away from the edge of streams. They usually perch on low foliage about 70-100cm off the ground. Greenbacks are also not very skittish and can be easily approached and photographed. In some areas I have viewed two possible forms of the species and some authors (e.g. Baker and Lim 2008) have also suspected that it may in fact be two species. The last couple nights out I did not find the other form, but it is slightly larger and it can be darker? Initially I thought they were just large adults and not another spp? However, in some areas I have never found the larger form, but the smaller variety was plentiful. It is always amazing that even in Singapore, a techno-savvy city state, there are still major questions of taxonomy and ecology on species “right across the street” that haven’t even been approached.

Some secret Spea bombifrons


A couple weeks ago during the “super moon”, I found four Spea bombifrons at our field site in Wyoming. There have been regular herp surveys at the refuge for over 20 years, and apparently no record for a Spea! I couldn’t believe it! I guess not many people survey there at 1am during the full (super) moon!  Actually this site is the edge of their range, bordering with Spea intermontana. Distinguishing between the two species can be difficult even when it is “in hand”. Many morphological characteristics are highly variable in both species such as skin color, skin texture, stripping, etc. In fact, talking with the Wyoming Natural History Database, there many be several records in the state that are misidentified. Usually they are distinguished by range…but in this case it is a bit of a toss up. 

Red Headed Agama

First reported in 1976, the African red headed agama (Agama agama) has been established in South Florida for quite some time. They feed on mostly small insects and are found in populations scattered across several counties. Like many invasive herps in Florida, some of the populations (such as the the agama population in Hollywood, FL) is located suspiciously close to nearby exotic pet stores selling reptiles.

These pictures where taken at Fairchild Botanical garden, which hosts a large population of the lizard. Interestingly, they seem concentrated near the ‘desert’ biome portion of the garden. It must seem like home!

Linhoff lizard IMG_0353 IMG_0381 So fla agamid

New paper: The value of remnant trees in pastures for a neotropical poison frog

From La Selva

Oophaga pumilio: photo by Luke Linhoff

Justin, Kelsey and Mo published the following article in Journal of Tropical Ecology. The link and abstract are below:


Full citation: Darvé Robinson, Adrienne Warmsley, A. Justin Nowakowski, Kelsey E. Reider and Maureen A. Donnelly (2013). The value of remnant trees in pastures for a neotropical poison frog. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 29, pp 345-352.


The value of remnant trees in pastures for a neotropical poison frog

ABSTRACT: Conversion of natural habitats to anthropogenic land uses is a primary cause of amphibian declines in species-rich tropical regions. However, agricultural lands are frequently used by a subset of forest-associated species, and the habitat value of a given land use is likely modified by the presence and characteristics of remnant trees. Here we used mark–recapture methods to examine abundances and movement probability of the poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, at individual trees in forest-fragment edges and adjacent pastures in north-eastern Costa Rica. One hundred and forty-seven trees were surveyed at three replicate sites that each included a forest fragment and adjacent pasture. Trees were sampled at distances of ≤30 m into forest and ≤150 m into pastures for Oophaga pumilio, and local environmental characteristics were measured at each tree. We also measured indices of physical condition (size and endurance) of frogs captured in forest edges and in nearby pastures. Analyses of 167 marked individuals showed no difference in per-tree abundances or sex ratios between pasture and forest edges. We found significant interactions between habitat type and leaf-litter cover, tree dbh and number of logs, indicating greater influence of local variables on abundances in pastures. Movement among trees was infrequent and not predicted by sex, size, habitat type or environmental variables. While results of endurance tests did not differ for individuals from the two habitats, frogs captured in pastures were, on average, larger than frogs captured in forest edges. These data indicate that remnant trees are important habitat features for O. pumilio in pastures and corroborate research in other systems that suggests that large relictual trees should be retained to maximize the potential for altered landscapes to provide habitat for native species.