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Dr. Josiah Townsend

Dr. Josiah TownsendContact Information
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PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology – University of Florida (2011)

MA in Latin American Studies (Tropical Conservation and Development) – University of Florida (2006)

BSc in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation – University of Florida (2004)

AA 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

Townsend JH, M Medina-Flores, LD Wilson, RC Jadin, and JD Austin. 2013. Molecular and morphological analysis reveals a relict lineage of green palm-pitviper (Squamata: Viperidae: Bothriechis) from the Chortís Highlands of Mesoamerica. ZooKeys 298: 77–105.

Townsend JH, M Medina-Flores, O Reyes–Calderón, and JD Austin. 2013. A new Nototriton (Caudata: Plethodontidae:) from Montaña de Botaderos National Park in northeastern Honduras. Zootaxa 3666(3): 358–368.

Townsend JH, LD Wilson, M Medina-Flores*, and LA Herrera-B*. 2013. A new species of centipede snake in the Tantilla taeniata group (Squamata: Colubridae) from premontane forest in Refugio de Vida Silvestre Texíguat, Honduras. Journal of Herpetology 47(1): 191–200.

Sunyer J, R García-Roa, and JH Townsend. 2013. First country record of Norops wermuthi Köhler & Obermeier, 1998, for Honduras. Herpetozoa 26(1/2): 103–106.

Townsend JH. 2013. Book review: Amphibians of Central America, by Gunther Köhler. Herpetological Review 44(1): 167–170. 

Wilson, LD, IR Luque-Montes, A Alegría, and JH Townsend. 2012. El componente endémico de la herpetofauna hondureña en peligro crítico: priorización y estrategias de conservación. Revista Latinoamericano de Conservación/Latin American Journal of Conservation 2: 47–67.

Townsend JH, LD Wilson, M Medina-Flores, E Aguilar-Urbina, BK Atkinson, CA Cerrato M., A Contreras-C., LN Gray, LA Herrera-B., IR Luque-M., M McKewy- Mejía, A Portillo-A., AL Stubbs, and JD Austin. 2012. A premontane hotspot of herpetofaunal endemism on the windward side of Refugio de Vida Silvestre Texíguat, Honduras. Salamandra 48(2): 92–114.

Jadin RC, JH Townsend, TA Castoe, and JA Campbell. 2012. Cryptic diversity in disjunct populations of Middle American Montane Pitvipers: a systematic reassessment of Cerrophidion godmani. Zoologica Scripta 41(5): 455–470.

Talley BL, LD Wilson, and JH Townsend. 2012. Effectiveness of leaf litterbags for sampling stream-breeding anurans: tadpole distribution, composition, and use. Herpetological Review 43(1): 55–59.

Sunyer J, JH Townsend, DB Wake, SL Travers, SC Gonzalez, LA Obando, and AZ Quintana. 2011. A cryptic new species of Oedipina (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from premontane elevations in northern Nicaragua, with comments on the systematic status of the Nicaraguan paratypes of O. pseudouniformis Brame, 1968. Breviora 526: 1–16.

Townsend JH, M Medina-Flores, JL Murillo, and JD Austin. 2011. Cryptic diversity in Chortís Highland moss salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Nototriton) revealed using mtDNA barcodes and phylogenetics, with a new species from eastern Honduras. Systematics and Biodiversity 9(3): 275–287. DOI: 10.1080/14772000.2011.611188

McCranie JR, and JH Townsend. 2011. Description of a new species of worm salamander (Caudata, Plethodontidae, Oedipina) in the subgenus Oedopinola from the central portion of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios, Honduras. Zootaxa 2990: 59–68.

Townsend JH, LD Wilson, César A. Cerrato M., BK Atkinson, LA Herrera-B., and M McKewy Mejía. 2011. Discovery of the critically endangered treefrog Plectrohyla chrysopleura in Refugio de Vida Silvestre Texiguat, Honduras. Herpetological Bulletin 115: 22–25.

Townsend JH, IR Luque-Montes, and LD Wilson. 2011. Newly-discovered populations of four threatened endemic salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from the highlands of Honduras. Salamandra 47(1): 50–54.

Travers SL, JH Townsend, Javier Sunyer, LA Obando, and LD Wilson. 2011. New and noteworthy records of amphibians and reptiles from Reserva de la Biósfera Bosawas, Nicaragua. Herpetological Review 42(3): 399–403.

Sunyer J, DB Wake, JH Townsend, SL Travers, SM Rovito, TJ Papenfuss, and LA Obando. 2010. A new species of worm salamander (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Oedipina) in the subgenus Oeditriton from the highlands of northern Nicaragua. Zootaxa 2613: 29–39.

Townsend JH, JM Butler, LD Wilson, and JD Austin. 2010. A distinctive new species of moss salamander (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Nototriton) from an imperiled endemism hotspot in Honduras. Zootaxa 2434: 1–16.

Travers SL, and JH Townsend. 2010. Myiasis on a Neotropical leaf frog, Agalychnis saltator Taylor, 1955. Herpetology Notes 3:355–357.

Townsend JH, LA Herrera-B., Melissa Medina-Flores, LN Gray, AL Stubbs, and LD Wilson. 2010. Notes on the second male specimen of the cryptozoic snake Geophis damiani Wilson, McCranie, & Williams 1998 (Squamata: Colubridae: Dipsadinae). Herpetology Notes 3: 305–308.

Townsend JH. 2009. Morphological variation in Geophis nephodrymus (Squamata: Colubridae), with comments on the conservation of Geophis in eastern Nuclear Central America. Herpetologica 65(3): 292–302. DOI:

Townsend JH, JM Butler, LD Wilson, and JD Austin. 2009. A new species in the Bolitoglossa dunni group (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from Parque Nacional Montaña de Yoro, Honduras. Salamandra 45(2): 95–105.

Townsend JH, and LD Wilson. 2009. New species of cloud forest Anolis (Squamata: Polychrotidae) of the crassulus group from Parque Nacional Montaña de Yoro, Honduras. Copeia 2009(1): 62–70. DOI:

Luque-Montes IR, and JH Townsend. 2009. Geographic Distribution. Ninia espinali (Espinal’s Coffee Snake). Herpetological Review 40(4): 457.

Sunyer J, JH Townsend, LD Wilson, SL Travers, LA Obando, G Paiz, and DM Griffith. 2009. Three new country records of reptiles from Nicaragua. Salamandra 45(3): 186–190.

Townsend JH, LD Wilson, LP Ketzler, and IR Luque-Montes. 2008. The largest blindsnake in Mesoamerica: a new species of Typhlops (Squamata: Typhlopidae) from an isolated karstic mountain in Honduras. Zootaxa 1932: 18–26.

Townsend JH, LD Wilson, IR Luque-Montes, and LP Ketzler. 2008. Redescription of Anolis rubribarbaris (Köhler, McCranie, & Wilson 1999), a poorly known Mesoamerican cloud forest anole (Squamata: Polychrotidae). Zootaxa 1918: 39–44.

García-Moreno J, R Moore, G Santos-Barrera, N Urbina-Carbona, A Muñoz, P Walker, Z Walker, C Vásquez-Almazán, JH Townsend, R Jiménez, A Upgren, J Barborak, and JR Bonilla-Barbosa. 2008. Una visión del estado de los anfibios críticamente amenazados del norte de Centroamérica y los sitios en los que habitan. Mesoamericana 12(1): 37–40.

Venegas PJ, JH Townsend, C Koch, and W Böhme. 2008. Two new sympatric species of leaf-toed gecko (Gekkonidae: Phyllodactylus) from the Balsas region of the upper Marañon Valley, Peru. Journal of Herpetology 42(2): 386–396. DOI:

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