National herpetology society honors UT Arlington professor for discoveries

September 11th, 2012
Jonathan Campbell, a UT Arlington biology professor known for traveling into the remotest regions of Central and South America to catalog biodiversity, has received the 2012 Henry S. Fitch Award for Excellence in Herpetology, a national honor given by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

The annual award was announced this summer at the 7th World Congress of Herpetology in Vancouver, Canada. The prize is awarded to an individual for long-term excellence in the study of amphibian and/or reptile biology, based principally on the quality of the awardee's research; consideration is also given to educational and service impacts of the individual's career.

"Our awardee's scientific career has been one of discovery, finding and describing unknown species, and synthesizing the body of knowledge on Latin American herpetology," Jonathan Losos, Harvard professor and herpetology curator of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, said in introducing Campbell's recognition. "He has studied the biodiversity and biogeography of Central and South America, often as faunas were going extinct. It is no hyperbole to say that, without his work, many forms would have gone extinct without even being known."

In presenting the award, the society lauded Campbell's ability to connect with the people of Latin America and his prolific published work, which includes systematic monographs and revisions, field guides and descriptions of more than 100 new species. Losos' introduction highlighted how Campbell's "facility with Spanish and his calm attitude allow him to travel into areas that are inaccessible to most scientists.

"One famous story recounts how he convinced government officials to issue permits to enter a region even they were afraid to enter. Then, two days later he persuaded guerillas to allow him to continue his work (and not shoot him) because he was 'only a scientist collecting frogs,'" Losos said.

Campbell has been a professor at The University of Texas at Arlington since 1983 and chair of the College of Science's biology department since 2002. He is also director of the Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center at UT Arlington. The Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center houses more than 130,000 specimens of more than 4,000 species collected from more than 90 countries.

"It is no surprise to see Dr. Campbell honored by his peers," said Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science. "Here at UT Arlington he has been instrumental in building the Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center into a nationally-known resource and providing valuable field experiences and mentoring for biology faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates."

Campbell is an outstanding representative of the faculty at UT Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

Provided by University of Texas at Arlington

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