The collection had its origins during the first decade of the 1900s when Herbert Brown, the first director of the Arizona State Museum, acquired a few herpetological specimens while collecting birds around Tucson and Southeastern Arizona.

From 1910 through the 1920s, University of Arizona Zoologist Charles T. Vorhies and Walter P. Taylor of the U.S. Biological Survey took specimens from Southern Arizona that eventually made their way into the collection. From the 1930s through the late 1940s collectors such as E. C. Jacot, C. W. Quaintance, A. J. Van Rossem, as well as W. P. Taylor, and C.T.Vorhies added to the university’s holdings. By in large, these specimens were taken almost incidentally as these early collectors busied themselves with the more prescribed activities of their professions and objectives. By 1950, the collection consisted of approximately 2,500 specimens, the majority of these being from the Tucson area and Southern Arizona.

It is probably safe to assume that these pioneer collectors had little or no inkling that the specimens they gathered during the first few decades of the 20th century would form the nucleus for one of the great regional legacy collections of the western United States.

In 1950, Dr. Charles H. Lowe (recently deceased professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), arrived at the University of Arizona after receiving his doctorate degree under the guidance of Dr. Raymond B. Cowles at the University of California at Los Angeles. Lowe, a premiere naturalist, and being an energetic and dynamic herpetologist with insights into a multitude of disciplines, set out immediately to build the collection. He brought with him a personal collection of some 1,500 specimens, largely from New Mexico, California, and Baja California. Lowe’s heterogeneous interests and areas of expertise attracted a wide variety of students who, under his direction, made advances in fields ranging from genetics, systematics, and physiology, to population biology and the classification of biotic communities. During the 1950s and 1960s, Lowe, his students, and associates made extensive collections from the Southwestern United States and Mexico. A complete list of collectors during this “Golden Age” of collecting at the University of Arizona would be far too great to present here, but some of the principle contributors include, in alphabetical order: Kenneth K. Asplund, Robert L. Bezy, Arthur D. Cecil III, Charles J. Cole, Robert. W. Dickerman, Richard S. Felger, J. Homer Ferguson, Gerald O.Gates, Stephen R. Goldberg, Penelope A. Graf, Elizabeth A. Halpern, Wallace G. Heath, Peter J. Lardner, Joe T. Marshall, Kenneth S. Norris, Arthur J. Ruff, Wade C. Sherbrooke, Oscar H. Soule, Allen E. Thomas, John W. Tremor, John W. Wright, and Tien W. Yang. Lowe also made collections on trips abroad during tours of the deserts and arid lands of the Old World, as well as forays into Central and South America.

By the early 1970s, the rapid pace of collection building that so typified the 1950s and 1960s began to moderate, and large scale mass collecting shifted into more prudent sampling of populations and regions. Though collection growth has decelerated somewhat, the collection remains dynamic. From the early 1970s to the present, many workers have made valuable additions to this institution. Some of the more paramount of these acquisitions include (in alphabetical order) collections by Richard A. Blake, George L. Bradley, Tony L. Burgess, John K. Cross, Darrel R. Frost, Stephen F. Hale, Peter A. Holm, C. Wayne Howard, James A. Hudnall, Terry B. Johnson, Brent E. Martin, Michael D. Robinson, Philip C. Rosen, Julia V. Salmon, Shawn S. Sartorius, Cecil R. Schwalbe, Dale S. Turner, and Thomas R. Van Devender. This period has also seen several important acquisitions from other institutions. Unquestionably, the most important of these acquisitions being the donation of over 2,100 preserved specimens from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This ASDM collection, principally composed of material collected from the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico during a period that spanned the 1940s through the 1980s, was largely built by William H. Woodin, Mervin W. Larson, Merritt S. Keasey, and others affiliated with the Desert Museum.

The UAZ Herpetology Collection continues to be a major repository of voucher material for a wide array of studies and projects in the southwestern United States. Recent faunal surveys and ecological studies have added valuable specimens from a number of parks, monuments, conservation areas, refuges, and military reservations, as well as other locales of federal, state, and private stewardship. These specimens, whether collected a hundred years ago or today, constitute the “baseline” in studies ranging from systematics to reproductive biology, parasitic infection, disease outbreak, diet, activity periods, and distribution in both space and time. When taken as a whole, these specimen-based disciplines form the core for very important and much needed work in conservation biology, and provide us with a glimpse into what was, what is, and what the future may hold.


George Bradley, Herpetology Collections Manager, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona,Tucson, Arizona 85721(520) 621-3187, All contents copyright : 2006 The University of Arizona Museum of Natural History. Photographs copyright 2006: Alex Badyaev. Website design by: GC Greene, G Bradley, & Alex Badyaev 2006