2023 Herpetofauna of the Duke Forest

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

Community scientists help our office to collect wildlife data on a scale that we never could alone. Additionally, the experience is valuable for volunteers themselves, allowing them to learn about Duke Forest fauna, get out in the woods, 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!) Interested volunteers must read the full program details and apply below.

PROGRAM PURPOSE & IMPACT: We are looking for a dedicated team of community scientists to help us collect data on the herpetofauna of the Duke Forest. Community science is part of a larger effort underway at the Duke Forest to better protect and promote the wildlife species that call it home. By collecting data at identified sites in the Forest over time, we can learn more about the herpetofauna that currently exist and how to better manage the Forest so that they thrive. The data community scientists collect help us answer basic questions like – What animals live here? When are they active? How many are there? And it’s not just the Duke Forest management team that’s interested in this information. Duke faculty and students directly incorporate these data into research and class projects. 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 for the Environment professor. Read more about Nicki here

TIME COMMITMENT: Accepted applicants may participate in Session 1 (February 13 – June 25), Session 2 (June 12 – October 29), or the Full Season (February 13 – October 29). Each community scientist is placed on a team. During each Session of the program, at least two members from each team will be responsible for completing 1 monitoring visit every week. A monitoring visit consists of both field data collection at a transect in the Duke Forest and computer-based data entry at home. The total time commitment per week is ~1-2 hours (excluding travel time). Each community scientist is responsible for participating in team communications to coordinate weekly activity.


Walking in a forested environment involves obstacles, uneven surfaces, significant slopes, and long 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. Please email our staff at dukeforest@duke.edu if you have concerns about walking in the forest environment but would still like to participate.

The Herpetofauna Program’s Covid policy follows the Covid-19 safety policies of Duke University, found at coronavirus.duke.edu. Community scientists will be required to sign a waiver and are highly encouraged to be vaccinated and boosted. Data collection requires participants from various households to work together outdoors and in small groups without the possibility of social distancing. We ask all participants to be respectful of those who prefer to wear a facemask.


Session 1

  • Early January – Session 1 and Full Season Applications Open. Volunteers are notified of participation by early February.
  • Mon, Feb 13 from 6-8pm – Required Session 1 Virtual Training
  • Sun, Feb 19 from 9-11am – Required Session 1 Outdoor, In-Person Training
  • Wed, Feb 22 – First Transect Visits begin for Session 1
  • Feb – June – Transect visits are conducted between Wednesday and Sunday each week.
  • Sun, June 25 – End of Session 1

Session 2

  • Early May – Session 2 Application Opens. Volunteers are notified of participation by late May.
  • Mon, June 12 from 6-8pm – Required Session 2 Virtual Training
  • Sat, June 17 (exact timing TBA) – Required Session 2 In-Person Training
  • Wed-Sun, June 21 to 25 – New participants visit transects and “shadow” the final week of Session 1.
  • June 26 to July 4 – Break between Sessions 1 and 2, and for July 4th holiday.
  • Wed, July 5 – First Transect Visits begin for Session 2
  • July 5 – Sept 24 – Transect visits are conducted between Wednesday and Sunday each week.
  • Sept 25 – Oct 29 – Transect Visits take place on Saturdays and Sundays ONLY during Duke Forest’s annual Deer Herd Reduction Program.
  • Sun, Oct 29 – End of Session 2; End of Program

MANDATORY TRAININGS: All participants (even returning volunteers) are required to attend the virtual AND in-person trainings for the program sessions they participant in, in order to satisfy data collection procedures and Institutional Care and Use Committee protocols. The mandatory Session 1 and 2 trainings are listed above. Please mark your calendar accordingly.

Please fill out the application linked below to indicate your desire to participate in the 2023 Herpetofauna Community Science Program. This is an application and does not guarantee inclusion in the program. We will contact you if we require additional information or to provide additional program details. Please also note the following requirements for participation in this program:

  • Participants must attend both of the two orientation trainings led by Duke Forest staff. For this Community Science program, attendance at the trainings is required in order to participate. In Session 2, the trainings will be held on Mon, June 12 from 6-8pm (virtual) and Sat, June 17 exact timing TBA (outdoor, in-person).
  • Must be 16 or older (under 18 will require parental consent).
  • 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).
  • Must be able to participate in at least one full session of the program (see the program schedule earlier on this webpage).
  • Will not be asked and are not allowed to directly handle the animals.
  • Will work in teams, and must be willing and able to communicate clearly and work together to schedule visits, observe, and enter data. If you have a friend or partner who would like to participate, please invite them to register and indicate it in your application form if you would like to be paired with them on a team.
  • All interested individuals must apply and all members of a team must attend the required training sessions.

Please check back in early 2024 for next year’s program!

2022 Herpetofauna Observed

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