During the past two and half decades, the Department has produced well over 100 scientific papers, and authored or contributed to the publication of at least 11 books. Herpetology faculty and staff have served as officers and board members of national and international organizations such as the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Geological Society of America, Willi Hennig Society, California Institute for International Studies, Forum for the History of Science in America, the Biodiversity Foundation for Africa (Zimbabwe) and the National CITES Standing Committee of the Kenya Wildlife Service, to name a few.

The members of the Department of Herpetology pride themselves in being one of the more creative and innovative departments in the Academy. Our past three decades have included many Academy "firsts."

The first biochemical research at CAS was undertaken by Herpetology in 1960, and then joined by Steinhart Aquarium the next year. Members of the Department were among the very first to lobby for and support the installation of the Osher Molecular Laboratory, which originally resided in office space released by Herpetology.

The first microcomputer (PC) at the Academy, an HP 9830A "desktop calculator", was a gift solicited by Herpetology and resided in that Department for some years.

The first Collections Manager was a member of the Herpetology Department staff; the title and duties of this position were defined in this Department, setting the standard for the rest of the nation.

The first departmental Postdoctoral Fellowships at the Academy were instituted by Herpetology and administrated wholly by its faculty. The funding for these postdocs was made possible by partial release of salary monies due to the efforts of one of our faculty who took on an additional and salary-reimbursable responsibility as Executive Director of the Pacific Division of AAAS. The fellowships ran for three years, but terminated in a difficult budget year. The decision was made to fund a curatorial assistant position instead. The two departmental Postdoctorial Fellows were Dr. Jacques Gauthier, now Professor of biology at Yale University, and Dr. Stephen Busack, presently Director of the North Carolina State Museum. Under the Academy's former Tilton Postdoctoral Fellowship program the Department faculty was augmented by Dr. Kevin de Quieroz (1989-1990), now Curator, U. S. National Museum, and Dr. Jeffery Wilkinson, presently Cal Academy's Yunnan Project Coordinator. Dr. Wilkinson is the last Tilton Postdoctoral Fellow, the program having been terminated at time of writing.

The first Academy Adjunct Professors at San Francisco State University were drawn from Herpetology and Steinhart Aquarium faculties. Over the years, Herpetology staff and faculty have led 20 Academy Members tours, including the first Academy trips to East Africa, the former USSR, Siberia, Mongolia, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Southeast Asia, and the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

Herpetology solicited funds for and currently administers the first intra-departmental grant program for graduate students at the Academy. The Charles Stearns Grants-In-Aid in Herpetology provides funds for graduate students to visit the Department for the purpose of examining our collections in support of their research projects. Entering its eighth year, this competitive fund has provided travel and subsistance funds for 26 students from 17 institutions, including distant ones such as Villanova University, University of Florida, the Natural History Museum in Paris, and the University of Wales. In May 1998, the Brett Stearns Award for Chelonian Research was established to further research on the Department's turtle collections; it is competitive and administered in the same manner as the Charles Stearns Fellowships.

The California Academy of Sciences Department of Herpetology is one of the first in the world to completely computerize its collections on a database developed for PCs and PC-networks. The standard was set for development of this kind when at the behest of NSF, a Department faculty member authored Computer Application to Collection Management in Herpetology and Ichthyology (Leviton, Gibbs, Johnson, and McDiarmid, 1982). The Department has also developed the first searchable database of major herpetology collections. Titled Herpetology Combined Museum Collections Database, it is accessible through any gopher server or the World Wide Web and includes the entire collections of CAS, plus those of 27 sister institutions.

The Department trains museum staff of institutions in developing nations in database management and advanced curatorial techniques. Mr Charles Msuya, Chief Technician in the Zoology Department (and a PhD candidate therein), University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania spent 2 months with us in 1994 for such training. Damaris Rotich of the National Museums of Kenya joined us for a similar period in 1995. Both trainees were wholly funded by the Global Enviormental Facility, administered by the United Nations FAO.

During the past three decades, Department faculty and staff have conducted field research in over 50 foreign countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, and western North America.

Contact the Department

  • Herpetology
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5292 (direct)