Finding Fauna

Biologists to visit Indonesia in quest for new amphibian and reptile species

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Biology Assistant Professor Eric Smith is a man on a mission. His goal: discover and catalog all the new amphibian and reptile wildlife he can find deep in the Indonesian jungles.

Dr. Smith and his team of researchers received a three-year, $725,000 National Science Foundation grant to explore the Indonesian portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the highlands of Sumatra and Java.

It’s a huge place, and it will take a long time to explore what is there,” Smith says.

Discovering new species increases our understanding of how animals evolve to fit their surroundings—knowledge that has led to many scientific advances. It also provides a catalog useful in conservation planning and in tracking the global biodiversity crisis.

The amphibian and reptile fauna of Indonesia is as poorly known as U.S. fauna was more than 100 years ago,” says Jonathan Campbell, chair of the Biology Department. “This research is timely and crucial. It undoubtedly will lead to the discovery of many species new to science, demonstrate that Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and provide thousands of specimens for analysis.”

Smith’s team includes scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, the Bandung Institute of Technology, and Brawijaya University in Indonesia; students from UT Arlington and Broward College in Florida; and researchers from other universities. They will return part of what they find to UT Arlington for study and leave some specimens behind for Indonesian researchers, fueling collaboration for the future.

I’m extremely excited about this research in Indonesia,” says team member Michael Harvey, a UT Arlington alumnus and Broward College associate professor. “Very few herpetologists have worked in Sumatra, and we expect to find some rather spectacular new species.”

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