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By 2050, 60% of the world’s population will live in tropical areas, increasing pressure to biodiversity. In particular, reptiles and amphibians will begin feeling the consequences of this migration, as well as the impacts of our changing landscapes and climate. Herpetology refers to the study of reptiles and amphibians. Our teams are committed to furthering collaborative missions to provide a comprehensive assessment of herpetological biodiversity across tropical and sub-tropical regions, and contribute to data-driven management solutions.

Several of our researchers work on different projects that contribute to the understanding of tropical herpetological biodiversity. Many of these projects also have direct or indirect implications for the survival and conservation of the species being studied. 


There are a number of projects that revolve around the theme of tropical herpetological biodiversity. Some of these include studying disease ecology in reptiles and amphibians, evolutionary diversity in reptiles and amphibians, and how reptiles and amphibians respond to our changing climate. Explore specific tropical herpetological biodiversity research below, or explore all Land and Biodiversity Division projects.

  • The Catenazzi Lab for Conservation Biology and Herpetology

    The Catenazzi Lab for Conservation Biology and Herpetology, led by Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, focuses on conservation biology and herpetology. The directions of the lab are diverse; from disease ecology to taxonomy and community ecology to physiology, but all with the goal of documenting and preserving biological diversity.

  • The Cox Lab for Integrative Evolutionary Biology

    Dr. Christian Cox studies the evolution of functional diversity in nature. Understanding how diversity is promoted and maintained within species is crucial for predicting the impact of selection and the potential for adaptive evolution at all biological levels. His research integrates physiology, evolutionary biology, transcriptomics and genomics to understand both the evolution and function of phenotypic, functional and genetic variation at different levels of biological organization - between sexes, within species and among species.

    Dr. Cox was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rules of Life (RoL) grant for collaborative research. The research will focus on the responses to environmental change seen across the biological hierarchy. This research will specifically build upon an existing transplant experiment that moved Anolis lizards from a single source population to islands in the Panama Canal that vary in habitat structure and local climate. We will follow phenotypic and genetic change in real time as populations adapt to their new environments. We will combine ecological data collected in the field over multiple generations with laboratory physiological assays, phenotypic plasticity and gene expression experiments, and genome scans to understand how interactions between behavior, plasticity, and genetic change mediate population persistence when environments change. 

  • Planning for Biodiversity

    Dr. Clinton Jenkins focuses on understanding the distribution of life on the planet, where it faces risks, and where to best save species from possible extinction. His group has studied most of the world’s terrestrial vertebrates, many marine species, ants, and a large portion of global plant diversity. View results, maps and publications.

Legacy Projects

  • Evolution of Reptile and Amphibian Species in the Americas

    Dr. Maureen Donnelly pioneered herpetological research at FIU. Her research has been varied over the years and includes behavior, taxonomy, evolution, landscape ecology, conservation, bio-mechanics, population dynamics and more. She focused on the ecology and evolutionary biology of neotropical amphibians and reptiles with a focus on species from Central and South America.

    Several related publications about her work include:

    • Whitfield, S. M., Lips, K. R., & Donnelly, M. A. (2016). Amphibian Decline and Conservation in Central America. Copeia, 104(2), 351-379.
    • Alza, C. M., Donnelly, M. A., & Whitfield, S. M. (2016). Additive effects of mean temperature, temperature variability, and chlorothalonil to red‐eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas) larvae. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
    • Thompson, M. E., Nowakowski, A. J., & Donnelly, M. A. (2015). The importance of defining focal assemblages when evaluating amphibian and reptile responses to land use. Conservation Biology.