25 June 2011 1 of 1





Fieldwork is not all running around in the field searching for specimens. There are lots of other tasks to carry out if the research project is to be a success and knowledge is to be gained.

Remember Timor-Leste is largely virgin territory from an herpetological point of view, even commomly encountered skinks and geckos may belong to undescribed species. In order to compile an inventory of the country's herpetofauna it is necessary to sample diverse habitats throughout the country, capture specimens, photograph them (including any sexual or ontogenetic [age-related] differences), document snout-to-vent lengths, tail lengths, scale counts, colouration, patterning, take DNA samples, and select a representative sample to act as voucher specimens for the Smithsonian Museum (the National Museum of the United States [Timor-Leste does not possess a natural history museum at this time]).

There is a great deal of lab-based work to be completed and that is what separates a serious herpetofaunal survey from a herp-hunting vacation.

This means that every so often you have to stop chasing specimens and process those you have captured, especially if you are planning to move on because specimens due to for release should be released where they were captured, and expeditiously.

David and Caitlin working in the field lab
at the Com Resort Hotel

The fieldwork results are combined annually into published report papers, the first of which, for 2009, was recently published in the journal ZooKeys [a free copy of the .pdf can be downloaded from here], the report for 2010 is in preparation, as is a report on the Oecusse exclave and several new species descriptions.

The ultimate aim is to produce a field guide to the entire herpetofauna of Timor-Leste, Asia's newest country and the first new country of the 21st Century.