Title: SNRE source
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00094182/00003
 Material Information
Title: SNRE source
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: School of Natural Resources and Environment, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Publisher: School of Natural Resources and Environment, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: Spring 2007
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094182
Volume ID: VID00003
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Vol. 3 Issue 1 Spring 2007
University of Florida School of Natural Resources and Environment

One SNRE Student Keeps Going and Going (and Going)
for the Right Reasons
By Patrick Heck

First-year, SNRE Ph.D. student Joe
Townsend has what many of his
peers do not: a shelf of published
work, international research e
experience and summer research
already lined up in January.

Despite his enormous success as a
student and researcher, Joe stays
grounded. His passion for pursuing
an understanding of the world
around him keeps him focused on
his research. Joe's graduate
advisor, Dr. Max Nickerson
describes Joe as having "that spark
of curiosity. He looks beyond what
is now and is willing to spend the
effort to find information necessary
for the future, especially in
conserving habitats and
populations, and stimulating others
Quebrada Cataguana, a cloud forest stream at 1780
to see his vision and make a m elevation, Montafia de Yoro National Park,
difference." Honduras." Photo/Joe Townsend

With the help of a grant from the St. Louis Zoo, Joe will spend part of his summer
in Nicaragua establishing a community-based, conservation research program in
the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. This project is an offshoot of his current work
documenting the uncatalogued diversity in at-risk cloud forests in Honduras while
involving local residents in the discovery and documentation process. In
Bosawas, Joe will train indigenous Miskito workers to carry out conservation-
based research independent of outside direction. The Miskito are traditional,
subsistence farmers, and "are often excellent hunters and very knowledgeable
about local biodiversity," Joe claims. Rather than having to rely on generating
income from exploitation of their resources, the Miskito "parabiologists" will

SNRE Source, Vol. 3 Issue 1
Graduate Student Profile

receive a salary to conduct biological and species monitoring. "We will provide
training as parabiologists and integrate them into our research team, giving them
a hand in the success of the project and the conservation of their resources."

Joe is also expanding his research to
include the molecular evolution and
phylogeography of reptiles and
amphibians, within a framework of
"systematics and conservation" of Latin
American herpetofauna. "I am making
connections between two fields that are
only tangentially (at best) linked in most
current research," explains Joe, "the key is
presenting the systematic and other
scientific knowledge in a form that is of
maximum utility for conservation
practitioners in the host country. The
dissemination of my results for popular
consumption as well as for the scientific
community is a major goal of my research."

Joe's upcoming book, "A Guide to
Amphibians and Reptiles of Cusuco
National Park, Honduras," is an example of
the "systematics and conservation"
approach. This bilingual field guide will put
Joe Townsend in the Heather Wind Scrub scientific data in the hands of not only
habitat, Cerro Cusuco. Part of the bosque
enano survey site sits at 2030 m elevation transnational research teams, but national
in Parque Nacional El Cusuco, Honduras. and local residents and conservation
Photo /D. Pupius practitioners as well... "When I took my first
book (the English-only 'Amphibians and
Reptiles of the Honduran Mosquitia') down to my field sites, my local
collaborators could do little more than look at the pictures. But this new field
guide will have every page in both English and Spanish, so that Hondurans will
be able to fully utilize the book for their own purposes. I hope it will be very
helpful tool for Hondurans, and that it will encourage other gringo biologists
working in Latin America to look for ways to disseminate their research in their
host countries.

As a UF Master's student in Latin American Studies, Joe partnered with his early
mentor, Miami-Dade College professor Dr. Larry David Wilson, to publish his first
book, "The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Honduran Mosquitia." The book is the
primary reference for the herpetofauna of the Mosquitia region, the largest
remaining tract of mesic lowland forest in Central America. Their goal was to
demonstrate the ecological value "that reptiles and amphibians have in
maintaining healthy, functioning, natural ecosystems."

SNRE Source, Vol. 3 Issue 1 2
Graduate Student Profile

During fieldwork in Honduras in 2004 and 2005, his team was able to discover
and describe a new species of snake, Geophis nephodrymus, along with
cataloging dozens of other reptiles and amphibians. Joe explains, "the
amphibians that live in these habitats are strong indicators of disturbance and
contamination, and recent evidence points to highland amphibian faunas as an
early casualty of global warming. Additionally most of the amphibian species in
these habitats are internationally recognized as either critically endangered or
endangered, due to both habitat degradation and the threat of chitrid fungus
infection; a pathogen that is at least partially responsible for declines and
extinctions of amphibian species and whose spread is apparently facilitated by
global climate change."

Joe's first book was not his earliest achievement. Joe published his first peer
reviewed article in Caribbean Journal of Science, in 2000. The article
documented the introduction of Cuban tree frogs to Anguilla, Lesser Antilles. It
was a clear demonstration of Joe's understanding of his newly found interest in
herpetology and natural systems in Latin America. Five years later, Joe hasn't

"I have another half-dozen
papers I am currently
working on," jokes Joe, "I
have a few that have been
hanging around for the last
two years. I love writing on
my current research, but it's
always great to have
something to come back to
when I'm finished." In
January 2007, Joe published
his forty-ninth peer reviewed
paper to the awe of his
professors and classmates.

Joe is a true Gator, earning
his Bachelor's and Master's A house in the Catajuana cloud forest. Photo /Joe
degrees in Latin American Townsend
Studies from the University of
Florida. He took advantage of a National Science Foundation Research
Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and quickly became an expert in the
biology and conservation of amphibians and reptiles in Latin America. Later, he
was awarded the Tropical Conservation and Development (TCD) Program (an
affiliate program of SNRE) Fellowship and a Grinter Fellowship, prestigious
awards for graduate students. In addition to being a well-published author and
international researcher, Joe spends his time as a lab instructor teaching
herpetology. Recently, Joe received the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

SNRE Source, Vol. 3 Issue 1
Graduate Student Profile

Science for Life Graduate Student Award, in recognition of his work mentoring
undergraduates and including them in all aspects of his research, from fieldwork
to the analysis and publishing of results. Joe also works as an assistant for the
Florida Museum of Natural History.

Click on the links below to learn more about Joe's

The Herpetofauna of the Rainforests of Honduras

Oedipina elonqata in Honduras

An Addition to the Snake Fauna of Honduras

Joe's Thesis

Joe Townsend
(352) 392-1721

SNRE Source, Vol. 3 Issue 1
Graduate Student Profile

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