Photo of student wearing waders in river and holding large fishing net.


Montclair State University NJSOC Herpetology Workshop 2019:
Northeast Reptile and Amphibian Field Ecology


Montclair State University’s New Jersey School of Conservation is offering its Seventh annual Herpetology workshop from June 17 to 28, 2019.


Most of the course will be taught at the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) campus in Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, New Jersey; off-site field trips will also be integral to the course. Originally constructed as a CCC camp in 1933, the NJSOC is Montclair State University’s environmental field campus and one of the United States’ oldest environmental education centers. The NJSOC is located 55 miles northwest of Montclair State’s main campus and 75 miles northwest of Manhattan (approximate driving distances) on a 240-acre stretch in the middle of Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, New Jersey. Stokes State Forest is within close proximity to a number of federal, state and private land preserves including High Point State Park and The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  Together, these lands make up one of the largest undeveloped tracts in New Jersey and support over 40 of the state’s reptile and amphibian species.

About this course:

Reptiles and amphibians, or “herps” as they are collectively called, are among the most misunderstood and unappreciated of all vertebrate animals.  While their direct value to mankind is not immediately apparent, herps provide various ecological services at multiple levels and serve as indicators of environmental health.  Recently, a global decline in herpetofauna has been documented.  Detrimental factors such as habitat fragmentation and destruction, disease, pollution, invasive species, overexploitation, and collection for the wildlife trade have affected countless species.  Educating students about the general biology and plight of reptiles and amphibians will undoubtedly improve public perception of these sensitive creatures and encourage a desire to protect and conserve them.

This course is designed to introduce college-level students to the reptiles and amphibians of the northeast United States, the environments they inhabit, and the techniques that are used to conserve and study them in the field.  Most of the course will involve hands-on field activities that allow students to get “up close and personal” with the salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards and snakes that call the Northeast home. A small number of classroom lectures and active learning discussions will also contribute to the student learning experience. 

The course will include:

  • Discussions of reptile and amphibian natural history: their basic biology, life histories and habitats
  • Discussions on the conservation and management of reptiles and amphibians
  • Discussions concerning research design
  • Reptile and amphibian identification and taxonomy
  • Identification of calling amphibians by ear
  • Habitat, plant, and non-herp animal identification
  • Reptile and amphibian sampling, trapping and marking/tagging techniques
  • Radiotelemetry
  • Reptile and amphibian tissue sampling for DNA analysis
  • Collection of occupancy, relative abundance, mark-recapture, physical, environmental and geographic data
  • Field note recordation and organization
  • A primer in nature photography
  • Day and night surveys for reptiles and amphibians
  • Hikes through several diverse northeastern habitats
  • Off-site field trips to natural areas that are different from those around the NJSOC
  • Participation in ongoing herpetological studies at the NJSOC and elsewhere

Access and Accommodations:

The NJSOC is roughly 75 miles (driving distance) northwest of Manhattan.  Because no means of public transportation connect directly to the NJSOC, most participants will need to provide their own transportation; arranging carpools with other participants is strongly encouraged.  At the NJSOC, participants will be provided with typical field station lodging and cafeteria meals.


The workshop will be divided into two one-week sessions, with each week-long session involving different schedules, activities and learning experiences.  Participants will have the option of taking the course for either one week (5 days) or two weeks (10 days).  Cost is $750.00 per person for one week and $1000.00 per person for two weeks (discounts available for early registrants; see registration below).  These fees include instruction, meals and lodging at the NJSOC.


One to three (1-3) transferable, undergraduate credits are obtainable through Montclair State University for an additional fee.  Non-credit options and course completion certificates are also available upon request.  To receive academic credit and financial aid, participants attend the course in June and register for the course during Montclair’s Fall 2019 semester.  For all inquiries regarding academic credit, please contact Dr. Randall FitzGerald at:


No experience is necessary but participants should be capable of college-level work and have strong interests in field biology, ecology, natural history, etc. Participants should also be in relatively good health and capable of hiking several miles in a range of conditions over moderate-difficult terrain. 


Class space is limited and participants will be admitted on a first come, first served basis.  To reserve a seat, each participant must pay a non-refundable $250 deposit by May 1st 2019.  Participants who pay in full by May 1st will receive a 10% discount on their registration.  Late registrations will be welcome after May 1st if space is still available (please inquire).  Full registration must be paid by June 1st 2019.  Refunds will not be issued after June 1st.

To register for the workshop or request more information, please contact Thomas J Duchak at:

For more information about the workshop, view a pdf of the workshop brochure: Herpetology brochure.