Guyer Lab

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My students and I are organismal biologists at heart.  Therefore, we let our intense interest in the life histories of amphibians and reptiles guide us to appropriate questions to ask of these animals rather than allowing an interest in a particular question force us to examine organisms for which we have no passion.  All levels of scientific inquiry are encouraged, from descriptive to experimental and from field to laboratory.  Additionally, broad experiences within the field of herpetology are encouraged.
These experiences include access to a number of fine field sites in Alabama and Costa Rica (regions with unusually rich herpetofaunas), participation in curation of a notable herpetological collection within the Auburn University Museum, and opportunities to influence the local populace about amphibians and reptiles through school and community programs.
The primary goal of activities in my lab is to provide new knowledge to the scientific community in the form of research publications.  While the scope of this research is limited taxonomically, all graduate-level projects are expected to explore patterns of broad interest to the fields of ecology, evolution, and/or conservation biology.  In this respect, students are expected to know enough about current trends in the latter fields to understand how their herp-oriented research projects might shape theory-based research.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Auburn is a member of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) and, therefore, our graduate students are eligible for the field course in tropical biology offered by OTS.  I try to encourage all of my students to take advantage of this exceptional educational opportunity.

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 I am always interested in recruiting bright, motivated students and typically take on 1-2 students each year.  Those working in my lab are expected to generate their own projects.  I do not provide students with projects because this usually stifles their scientific curiosity and because I find that my students ask much more interesting questions than I do!  Typically, there are more applicants for entry into my lab than I can accept, so the competition is stiff.  Those interested in entering my lab need to apply to the Department of Biological Sciences (see departmental web page) before Feb 1.  During the first week of February, I select the application(s) that I will sponsor.  Those not chosen are informed of my decision so they can withdraw their applications and avoid the application fee required by the Graduate School.  Once I sign my support of an applicant, the file is sent to the Graduate Admissions Committee of the Department of Biological Sciences for evaluation.  This committee screens applicants and assigns teaching assistantships (TA).  TA assignments are guaranteed for two years for masters students and five years for doctoral students.  Generally, new TA assignments are offered starting in mid-February (for students beginning their programs the following fall semester) and high GRE scores are needed for selection.  Most students score 1100 or better for verbal + quantitative and have a GPA of 3.4 or better.  If you are selected for a TA assignment, then this completes the admissions process for getting into my lab.  Most students teach for a year, while taking courses and establishing their research program.  Then we work towards finding support for the research project.  This may be in the form of a graduate research assistantship on one of my funded research projects or a grant that the student garners.

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    Kyle Barrett                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
    Ecology in urban areas, diversity-stability relationships, the effect of
    cross ecosystem flow of materials on communities


    Shannon Hoss
    Spatial Ecology and Reproductive Biology of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus

    Christina Romagosa

    Vertebrate Import and Export in the United States: a Risk Assessment of Introduction potential

    John Steffen
    Dewlap Pigments and Behavior of the Brown Anole, Norops sagrei

    Geoff Sorrell

    Sean Graham



    Austin Nelson

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   Cottonmouth Ecology:  Collectively, students in our lab are monitoring a local population
    of Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus).  This project was initiated in the Spring of 2001
    and includes mark-recapture, measuring growth rates, and documenting reproductive

    Gopher Tortoise Ecology:  This is a long-term project.   The roots of the project date back
    to 1988 and has expanded to include mulitple field sites located in Alabama, Georgia and
    Mississippi.  Research focuses include movement patterns and home range analysis,
    growth, population dynamics, social interations, reproductive ecology, foraging ecology,
    tortoise influence on microhabitat and vegetation structure, and effects of
    forestry/military activites.

    Population dynamics of Neotropical amphibians and reptiles

    Evolution of body size in vertebrates

    The role of cottonmouths as vectors of equine encephalitis

    Herpetofaunal diversity in urban and rural landscapes


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Ty W. Bryan. 1987. Effects of Black Creek seed orchard establishment on a population of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) (Daudin) in southeastern Mississippi

Emmett L. Blankenship. 1989. The effects of diet on the predatory larva of the smoky jungle frog (Leptodactylidae: Leptodactylus pentadactylus)

Kirsten E. Nicholson. 1995. A phylogenetic analysis of beta anoles

Brian Butterfield. 1996. The pattern of morphological variation of selected members of the introduced herpetofauna of Florida

Marilyn Herrington. 1996. Effects of stand thinning on gopher tortoises, Gopherus polyphemus  (Testudines: Testudinidae)

Karan Schnuelle. 1997. Effects of food availability on flattened musk turtle populations

Mathew Aresco. 1998. Growth and burrow abandonment of the gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus, in slash pine plantations of southern Alabama.

Melissa Boglioli. 1999. Burrow dispersion and occupancy patterns as they relate to habitat parameters and social behavior in the gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus

Jeannine Ott. 2000. Patterns of movement, burrow use, and reproduction in a population of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus): applications to the conservation and management of a declining species.

Kristin Bakkegard. 2001. Natural history and behavior of Red Hills salamanders (Phaeognathus hubrichti) at their burrow entrances

Robert Reed. 2001. Macroecology of Australian and New World reptiles, with emphasis on life history, geographic range, and conservation

Roger Birkhead. 2001. Foraging ecology and seed dispersal in gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) Michelle Durflinger. 2001 Demography and habitat requirements of the Black Warrior Waterdog, Necturus alabamensis

Valerie M. Johnson. 2004. Patterns of shell degradation in Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus)

Abigail M. Sorenson. 2004. Alternative Measures of Population Viability and a Reproductive
    Trade-off in Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus)

Scott Boback. 2005. Body size and head size evolution in island snakes.

Herbert 'Tug' Kesler. 2006. Conservation of a Florida endemic carnivorous plant: Godfrey's butterwort, Pinguicula ionantha.




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Durflinger, M.C., C. Guyer, and M.A. Bailey. 2006. Distribution, habitat use, and population ecology of the Black Warrior Waterdog, Necturus alabamensis. Southeastern Naturalist 5:69-84.

Guyer, C. 2006. Phrynosoma douglasii (Pygmy Short-horned Lizard: Copulatory position. Herpetological Review 37:91-92.

Birkhead, R.D., C. Guyer, S.M. Hermann, and W.K. Michener. 2005. Patterns of folivory and seed ingestion by Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in a southeastern pine savanna. American Midland Naturalist 154:143-151.

Guyer, C. and M.A. Donnelly. 2005. Amphibians and reptiles of La Selva, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean slope: A comprehensive guide. University of California Press.

M.A. Donnelly, B.I. Crother, C. Guyer, M. Wake, and M. White. 2005. Ecology and Evolution of Tropical Vertebrates. University of Chicago Press.

Guyer, C. 2005. Necturus beyeri Viosca, 1937: Gulf Coast Waterdog. Pp. 867-868 in (M. Lannoo, ed.) Amphibian Declines: The conservation status of United States species. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Guyer, C. 2005. Necturus cf. beyeri: Loding’s Waterdog. Pp. 873 in (M. Lannoo, ed.) Amphibian Declines: The conservation status of United States species. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Ress, S. and C. Guyer. 2004. A retrospective study of mortality and rehabilitation of raptors in the southeastern United States. Journal of Raptor Research 38:77-81.

Bakkegard, K. and C. Guyer. 2004. Sexual size dimorphism of the Red Hills Salamander, Phaeognathus hubrichti. J. of Herpetology 38:8-15.

Guyer, C. and M.A. Donnelly. 2004. Patterns of co-occurrence of hylid frogs at a temporary wetland In Costa Rica. In (M.A. Donnelly, B.I. Crother, C. Guyer, M. Wake, and M. White, eds.), Ecology and Evolution of Tropical Vertebrates.  University of Chicago Press (in press)

Aresco, M.J. and C. Guyer. Gopher Tortoise. 2004 Pp. 82-83 in (R.E. Mirachi, ed.) Animals of Alabama in need of Attention, Vol. 3, University of Alabama Press.

Bailey, M.A. and C. Guyer. Black Warrior Waterdog. 2004 Pp. 36-37 in (R.E. Mirachi, ed.) Animals of Alabama in need of Attention, Vol. 3, University of Alabama Press.

Guyer, C. and M.A. Bailey. Speckled Kingsnake. 2004 Pp. 66-67 in (R.E. Mirachi, ed.) Animals of Alabama in need of Attention Vol 3., University of Alabama Press.

Savage, J.M. and C. Guyer. 2004. Application of anole lizard generic names proposed by Wagler, 1830 and Fitzinger, 1843. Amphibia-Reptilia 25:303-305.

Cupp, E.W., D. Zhang, X. Yue, M.S. Cupp, C. Guyer, T.R. Sprenger, and T.R. Unnasch. 2004. Identification of reptilian and amphibian blood meals from mosquitos in an eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus focus in Central Alabama. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 71:272-276

Boback, S.M. and C. Guyer. 2003. Empirical evidence for an optimal body size in snakes. Evolution 57:345-351.

Ott, J., W.K. Michener, C. Guyer. 2003. Patterns of movement and burrow use in a population of Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus). Herpetologica 59:311-321.

Boglioli, M.D., C Guyer, and W.K. Michener. 2003 Mating Opportunities of Female Gopher Tortoises, Gopherus polyphemus. Copeia 2003: 846-850.

Hermann, S.M., C. Guyer, J.H. Waddle, and M.G. Nelms. 2002. Sampling on private property to evaluate population status and effects of land use practices on the gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus. Biological Conservation 108:289-298.

Ott, J.A., J.W. Hollister, C. Guyer, and W.K. Michener.  2002. Area requirements of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus): An evaluation of guidelines for estimating reserve size.  Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4:464-471.


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What is OTS?

        The Organization for Tropical Studies is a non-profit consortium of 64 research institutions and universities from around the world.  It was created in 1963 to focus on education, research, and management of natural resources in the tropics.  Auburn University has been an OTS member institution since 1987.
        As a member, Auburn students and faculty have access to educational, research, and funding opportunities that are not available to non-member institutions.  OTS is involved in teaching more than 15 different graduate and undergraduate courses, environmental education, facilitating tropical research, and operating three biological research stations in Costa Rica.


What courses are available to Auburn Students?

Graduate Courses:

Undergraduate Courses:

            - Field Tropical Biology
            - Introduction to Field Ethnobotany
            - Research Experience in Tropical Biology

Advanced Courses: (for postdoctoral scholars, junior faculty, and advanced graduate students)


 What does participation in OTS do for you?

        Participation in OTS courses provides Auburn students with a complete foundation in tropical biology.  In addition students have interactions with faculty who have considerable tropical experience, students and researchers currently doing research in the tropics, and peers on courses who are likely to form the next generation of tropical biologists.  Once students have completed the course, there are considerable opportunities for continued research (including logistical and financial assistance) in the tropics.


Graduate Fellowships:

        OTS offers research fellowships that are open to all students enrolled at Auburn as well as all OTS course alumni.  Through Pilot Awards and Research Fellowships, Auburn graduate students have access to up to $6500 for research projects in the tropics.

OTS Undergraduate Minority Scholars Program:

        Minority undergraduate students at Auburn are eligible to apply for scholarships that can be used for the full semester abroad as well as the summer abroad courses offered through OTS.  Through this program students receive a full scholarship.


Auburn OTS Alumni: 



Auburn Faculty Participants:

    Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

    Biological Sciences

    Entomology and Plant Pathology

For more information contact the Auburn OTS Delegates:

Dr. J. Wayne Brewer (
    Department of Entomology

Dr. Craig Guyer (
    Department of Biological Sciences
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Alabama Herp Atlas Project

Auburn University Natural History Museum

Backyard Guide to Alabama's Reptiles and Amphibians

The Organization for Tropical Studies at Auburn

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