Skip to Content - Skip to Navigation

Dr. Josiah Townsend

Dr. Josiah TownsendContact Information
Office Hours
Faculty Website


Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Ecology – University of Florida (2011)

M.A. in Latin American Studies (Tropical Conservation & Development) – University of Florida (2006)

B.Sc. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation – University of Florida (2004)

A.A. in Biology – Miami-Dade Community College (2000)


Systematics, Evolution, Conservation, and Herpetology


BIOL 103 Life on Earth
BIOL 220/281 Zoology
BIOL 425/525 Herpetology
BIOL 451/551 Evolutionary Biology
BIOL 450/550 Field Techniques in Ecology & Conservation (at Pymatuning Lab of Ecology)


I am interested in promoting the conservation of habitat and landscapes through the application of field and lab-based scientific research. Much of my research focuses on amphibians and reptiles, and emphasizes the inherit connections between systematic biology and conservation. Through the integration of phylogenetics, morphological systematics, population genetics, and macroecological modeling, I have developed a framework that uses taxonomic inventory and monitoring to promote education and extension in support of broader conservation goals in fragmented landscapes. Presently, my research is geographically focused on two regions: Central America and Appalachia. 

I have an active interdisciplinary research program in northern Central America, focusing on herpetofaunal diversity and conservation in poorly-studied and highly threatened montane cloud forests, and driven by fieldwork in remote and isolated locations. To date, this work led to the description of more than a dozen new species from Central America, with literally dozens more phylogenetically-delimited candidate species under investigation in my lab. 

Current Mesoamerican projects include: uncovering and characterizing cryptic diversity in tropical salamanders, particularly those in understudied groups such as moss salamanders (genus Nototriton); revising the systematics of Mesoamerican true frogs (Ranidae) using multiple lines of evidence, including mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, morphology of adults and tadpoles, bioacoustic analysis of male breeding calls, and macroecological modeling; systematic revion of the herpetofauna of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios in northern Honduras; and provide a broad characterization of patterns of evolutionary diversification in the Chortis Highlands Biogeographic Province of northern Central America.

Habitat fragmentation and its effect on biodiversity is also a continuing issue in the Appalachian Mountains, a region that itself is home to a diverse endemic herpetofauna. Intensive development by the energy industry, both historical (coal) and ongoing (Marcellus and Utica Shale), has led to long-term stream contamination through acid mine drainage and forest fragmentation through the installation of oil and gas drilling platforms.  The Appalachians are also home to the richest salamander fauna in the world, offering extensive opportunities for the development of applied research projects. 

Some current research projects underway in this region include: comparative phylogeography of stream salamanders along the interior plateaus of the Appalachians (the Cumberland and Allegheny plateaus); community ecology and resource partitioning of dusky salamander (Desmognathus spp.) assemblages in headwater streams; characterizing the distribution and habitat requirements of the endemic short-headed garter snake (Thamnophis brachystoma); and investigating the decline of mountain chorus frogs (Pseudacris brachyphona) in the northern Appalachians, including potential factors that have caused populations to disappear, surveys of historical localities and model-based identification of potential habitat, and establishment of monitoring programs at existing breeding sites. 



  • Wilson LD, JH Townsend, and JD Johnson (eds.). 2010. Conservation of Mesoamerican Amphibians and Reptiles. Eagle Mountain Publications, LC. Eagle Mountain, Utah. xviii + 812 pp.
  • Townsend JH, and LD Wilson. 2008. Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Cusuco National Park, Honduras / Guía de los Anfibios y Reptiles de Parque Nacional Cusuco, Honduras. Bibliomania!, Salt Lake City, Utah. xiv + 322 pp.
  • McCranie JR, JH Townsend, and LD Wilson. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Honduran Mosquitia. Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida. x+291 pp.

Peer-reviewed Papers

  • Biology Department
  • Weyandt Hall, Room 114
    975 Oakland Avenue
    Indiana, PA 15705-1081
  • Phone: 724-357-2352
  • Fax: 724-357-5524
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 7:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.