Herpetofauna of the Duke Forest

In 2024, the Office of the Duke Forest is leading our sixth year of the herpetofauna (or “herp”) community science program. This program engages volunteer scientists to monitor amphibians and reptiles—collectively known as herpetofauna—at specific sites in the Duke Forest. Herpetofauna are increasingly important today as their populations are key indicators of the effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation on wildlife.

This program is also valuable for volunteers, allowing them to participate in scientific field research, learn about Duke Forest fauna, and work alongside like-minded nature lovers. We encourage volunteers of all backgrounds and experience levels to apply to participate (you don’t have to be a herp expert!) Read the full program details and apply below.

PURPOSE & IMPACT: Community scientists help the Duke Forest to collect wildlife data on a scale that we never could do alone. Over time, we can learn more about the herpetofauna that currently exist here and how to better manage the Forest so that they thrive. This program is part of a larger effort underway at the Duke Forest to better protect and promote the wildlife species that call it home. Additionally, Duke faculty and students directly incorporate these data into research and class projects, and wildlife biologists and conservation partners can use them to map animal distributions and wildlife connectivity.

Our program is advised by Dr. Nicolette Cagle, Nicholas School of the Environment professor.


  • We are seeking dedicated community scientists who will commit to the entirety of the program from late February through October 2024.
  • Volunteers are grouped into teams of about six people. Every week, your team is responsible for designating at least two teammates to complete 1 monitoring visit. A monitoring visit consists of both field data collection at a transect in the Duke Forest and computer-based data entry at home.
  • Teammates will share the work (you may be able to take an occasional “off week”), but each community scientist is responsible for participating in team communications to coordinate weekly activity.
  • On average, the total commitment per week is ~1-2 hours (excluding travel time to the Forest).


Walking in a forested environment involves obstacles, uneven surfaces, significant slopes, and moderate distances. Mobility consistent with that demonstrated in the video on the right is required for participation in this program. For those with less mobility, there may still be other ways to contribute to this project, and we welcome you to email dukeforest@duke.edu to inquire about these opportunities.

Duke Forest follows the Covid-19 safety policies of Duke University, found at coronavirus.duke.edu. Herpetofauna data collection requires participants from various households to work together outdoors, occasionally without the possibility of social distancing. We highly encourage participants to be vaccinated and boosted and ask all participants to be respectful of those who prefer to wear a facemask.

2024 Season Schedule

January 18Volunteer applications open.
January 30Volunteer applications due by end of day.
1st week of FebruaryApplicants are notified of acceptance.
Mon, Feb 19 from 6-8pmMandatory* virtual training (on Zoom)

*If you are new or have not participated in the Herp Program within the past year (January 2023 onward), you are required to attend the virtual training. For returning volunteers who did participate in 2023, this training is optional.
Sat, Feb 24 from 9-11am

STORM DATE: Sun, Feb 25 from 9-11am
Mandatory in-person training, outdoors in the Duke Forest.

All participants (even returning volunteers) are required to attend the in-person training, in order to satisfy data collection procedures and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols. This training will occur even in a light drizzle, but it will be rescheduled to Sunday in the case of thunderstorms.
Feb 28-June 30Monitoring visits take place Wednesday to Sunday of each week.
July 3-July 7No transect visits conducted. Holiday break for July 4th week!
July 10-Sept 22Monitoring visits take place Wednesday to Sunday of each week.
Sept 25-Oct 27Transect Visits take place on Saturdays and Sundays ONLY. Duke Forest’s annual Deer Herd Reduction Program begins on Mon, September 23 and the Forest will be closed on weekdays for deer hunting.
Sun, Oct 27End of 2024 Herp Program

Please fill out the application linked below to indicate your desire to participate in the 2024 Herpetofauna Community Science Program. This is an application and does not guarantee inclusion in the program. Please also note the following requirements:

  • Participants must commit to the entirety of the 2024 season, from late February through October.
  • Must complete all trainings led by Duke Forest staff—including virtual and in-person trainings (details in the program schedule above).
  • Must be 18 years of age or older. (Minors may be able to participate with a parent but must reach out to dukeforest@duke.edu for advanced consideration.)
  • Must be able to spend an average of 1-2 hours per week in the field and at home submitting data (your team will share some of the work).
  • Will not be asked and are not allowed to directly handle the animals.
  • Must be willing to work in a team and communicate clearly to schedule visits, collect data, and enter data.
  • All interested individuals must apply. If you have a friend or partner who would like to participate, please encourage them to fill out their own application.

2023 Herpetofauna Observed

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