In the spring of my penultimate year at Cornell, I took a Herpetology class that introduced me to the world of reptiles and amphibians, or “herps,” as they’re affectionately known. Thanks to that exposure, I was able to enjoy the spring migration of certain salamander species and learn the basics of the main families of frogs, lizards, snakes, and other herps like alligators, crocodiles, and all the other slimy or scaly animals in the classes Amphibia and Reptilia. If I had known of the existence of the citizen science project HerpMapper at the time (it wasn’t released until September of the same year as that salamander migration) I’d have certainly submitted some observations and photos to the organization! From their About page:
HerpMapper is a cooperative project, designed to gather and share information about reptile and amphibian observations across the planet. Using HerpMapper, you can create records of your herp observations and keep them all in one place. In turn, your data is made available to HerpMapper Partners – groups who use your recorded observations for research, conservation, and preservation purposes. Your observations can make valuable contributions on the behalf of amphibians and reptiles.
So it’s basically the same idea as eBird but for reptiles and amphibians instead of birds, and being a relatively new project with a less charismatic group of animals (try telling that to a herper), HerpMapper has 129,431 total records compared with the millions on eBird, though eBird doesn’t require a photo or vocalization recording the way this newer cit-sci program does.
Like eBird, HerpMapper has a mobile app that can be used to submit observations, including the photographic evidence of a sighting. Here’s what Lisa Feldkamp from The Nature Conservancy blog has to say about HerpMapper:
Why is HerpMapper Important?
Impacts of habitat loss and disease on amphibians have been particularly dire; the most recent International Union of Conservation analysis of amphibian data found that 32% of the world’s amphibians are known to be threatened or extinct and at least 42% are declining in population.
Many of the threats to reptiles and amphibians are poorly understood and need more research. Your HerpMapper data help those who are working on these issues to find study populations and learn about other population trends.
Here’s one example: reducing reptile roadkill. We’ve all seen it – a snake or turtle smashed on the road, but what can be done to prevent these collisions? The answer is surprisingly simple – well-placed turtle tunnels.
Read Feldkamp’s piece on HerpMapper, including conversation with an administrator for the citizen science group, on her blog for TNC, and install the Mobile Mapper app on your (Android, Apple, or Microsoft) phone today if you’re interested in contributing data!