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 the patterns and processes that characterize the generation of biological diversity, and in promoting the conservation of habitat and landscapes through the application of field and lab-based scientific research. Much of my research focuses on neotropical 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.

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 two dozen new species from Central America, with literally dozens more phylogenetically-delimited candidate species under investigation in my lab.

Habitat fragmentation and its effect on biodiversity is a continuing issue in Cnetral America, as well as 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 contamination and fragmentation issues 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 project.

Townsend Lab Graduate Alumni

Thomas J. Firneno (2016): Thesis: An integrative assessment of species boundaries in Mesoamerican toads (Bufonidae: Incilius coccifer complex). Currently PhD student in M. Fujita Lab, University of Texas at Arlington. 2016 IUP Outstanding Graduate Research Award.

Alexander Hess (2016): Thesis: Community ecology and evolution of lungless salamander assemblages (Caudata: Plethodontidae) in temperate and tropical systems. Currently PhD student in R. Bonett Lab, University of Tulsa.

Michael Itgen (2016): Thesis: Taxonomic revision of Magnadigita (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Bolitoglossa) from Honduras. Currently PhD student in R. Mueller Lab, Colorado State University.

Erich Hofmann (2017): Thesis: Cryptic diversity and phenotypic stasis in a complex of highland anoles (Squamata: Dactyloidae: Norops crassulus species subgroup). Currently PhD student in C. Parkinson Lab, Clemson University. 2017 IUP Outstanding Graduate Research Award.

Kathryn Coates (2018): Thesis: Assessing genetic diversity, hybridization, and microhabitat associations of Valley & Ridge Salamander (Plethodon hofmanni) populations from the Allegheny Plateau of western Pennsylvania. Currently PhD student in K. Detwiler Lab, Florida Atlantic University.

Christopher Garbark (2019): Thesis: the relationship of the red-backed salamander abundance to the direct and indirect use value of undisturbed forest, a timberland mosaic of forest, and agriculture land-uses. Currently Program Director, Conemaugh Valley Conservancy.



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 / Gua 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.

Selected Peer-reviewed Papers (* = IUP student coauthor)

Firneno TJ*, and JH Townsend. 2019. Integrative evaluation of species boundaries in sympatric and parapatric populations of Mesoamerican toads (Bufonidae: Incilius coccifer group). Zoologica Scripta 48(4): 454-465. https://doi.org/10.1111/zsc.12354 .

Hofmann EP*, KE Nicholson, IR Luque-Montes, G Khler, C Cerrato-Mendoza, M Medina-Flores*, LD Wilson, and JH Townsend. 2019. Cryptic diversity, but to what extent? Discordance between single-locus species delimitation methods within mainland anoles (Squamata: Dactyloidae) from Northern Central America. Frontiers in Genetics 10: 11 (1-13). https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2019.00011 .

Hofmann, EP* and JH Townsend. 2018. A cryptic new species of anole (Squamata: Dactyloidae), previously referred to as Anolis crassulus Cope, 1864, from the Lenca Highlands of Honduras. Annals of the Carnegie Museum 85(2): 91-111.

Luque-Montes IR, JD Austin, KD Weinfurther*, LD Wilson, EP Hofmann*, and JH Townsend. 2018. An integrative assessment of the taxonomic status of putative hybrid leopard frogs (Anura: Ranidae) from the Chorts Highlands of Central America, with description of a new species. Systematics and Biodiversity 16(4): 340-356.

Hofmann EP*, and JH Townsend. 2017. Origins and biogeography of the Anolis crassulus subgroup (Squamata: Dactyloidae) in the highlands of Nuclear Central America. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17: 267 (1-14).

Townsend JH, and LD Wilson. 2016. Amphibians of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios, Honduras: COI barcoding suggests underestimated taxonomic diversity in a threatened endemic fauna. Mesoamerican Herpetology 3(4): 910-928.

Hess AJ*, MW Itgen*, TJ Firneno*, JC Nifong, and JH Townsend. 2016. Microsympatry in cryptic lowland salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Bolitoglossa subgenus Nanotriton) from northwestern Honduras: implications for taxonomy and regional biogeography. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research: doi:10.1111/jzs.12151.

Townsend JH. 2016. Taxonomic revision of Nototriton barbouri (Schmidt)(Caudata: Plethodontidae), with description of two new species of moss salamanders from the Cordillera Nombre de Dios, Honduras. Zootaxa 4196(4): 511-528.

Khler G, JH Townsend, and CBP Petersen 2016. Taxonomic revision of Norops tropidonotus (Peters 1863), with the resurrection of N. spilorhipus (Alvarez del Toro & Smith 1956) and description of two new species. Mesoamerican Herpetology 3(1): 8-41.

Townsend JH. 2014. Characterizing the Chorts Block Biogeographic Province: Geological, physiographic, and ecological associations and herpetofaunal diversity. Mesoamerican Herpetology 1(2): 204-252.

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 Chorts Highlands of Mesoamerica. ZooKeys 298: 77-105.

Townsend JH, M Medina-Flores*, O Reyes-Caldern, and JD Austin. 2013. A new Nototriton (Caudata: Plethodontidae:) from Montaa 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 Texguat, Honduras. Journal of Herpetology 47(1): 191-200.

Wilson, LD, IR Luque-Montes, A Alegra, and JH Townsend. 2012. El componente endmico de la herpetofauna hondurea en peligro crtico: priorizacin y estrategias de conservacin. Revista Latinoamericano de Conservacin/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- Meja, A Portillo-A., AL Stubbs, and JD Austin. 2012. A premontane hotspot of herpetofaunal endemism on the windward side of Refugio de Vida Silvestre Texguat, 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.