Reptile Biodiversity: Standard Methods for Inventory and Monitoring by Roy W. McDairmid , Mercedes S. Foster , Craig Guyer , J. Whitfield Gibbons and Neil Chernoff , eds. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012. 411pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-520-26671-1, £65
Article first published online: 21 NOV 2012
© 2012 The Linnean Society of London
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume 107, Issue 4, pages 953–954, December 2012
How to Cite
Livingstone, B. (2012), Reptile Biodiversity: Standard Methods for Inventory and Monitoring by Roy W. McDairmid , Mercedes S. Foster , Craig Guyer , J. Whitfield Gibbons and Neil Chernoff , eds. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012. 411pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-520-26671-1, £65. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 107: 953–954. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01975.x
- Issue published online: 21 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 21 NOV 2012
The subtitle is the important thing here. This book is about how to organise studies that will measure reptile biodiversity in the field. The temptation is always to get going with fieldwork as soon as possible and the pressures of grants and time must aggravate this. However, poorly-collected data is almost worse than no data at all. Experience counts for a lot but there can be few field trips that have not arrived on site without regrets for something left behind or not thought of at all.
One section of this book deals not with collecting reptiles, but with collecting associated data such as climate, season or microhabitats and how to draw up distribution maps that will actually be useful. Portable computing is now standard. Much data on the environment can be collected by continuous data-logging. The animals themselves can be continuously monitored for body temperature or position and detailed advice is given that will be invaluable in planning a study. There is an excellent section on documenting voucher specimens, which are vital if they can be safely collected and if others are to repeat or check the study later. Much that is here has not previously been published in any formal way. It is all practical advice: for example how to construct and lay out pitfall and tunnel traps (or a combination of the two) with shading, so that the animals trapped can remain cool in, say, a desert environment.
Maths and biology were strict alternatives when this reviewer was taking GCE A-level in the 1960s. Now they are vital complementary skills and there is a chapter on planning how to calculate and choose the indices that will be used. There is so much more that cannot be included in this review. If one reads nothing else, the case study on ‘Detecting snake abundance’ (p286–294) is particularly worthwhile. Unless the researcher knows how to calculate detection probabilities in the study site (and its microhabitats), then the work will only show how good he/she is at collecting, which may not be very good at all if they have not read this book and have not had so much experience. There is a copy in the Linnean Society's library. Do read it in good time before planning to set off into the field, as much will also be relevant to studies of non-reptilian groups.