SCC science instructor writes field guide to state’s amphibians, reptiles
Can you name the poisonous snakes in Nebraska?
Dan Fogell can.
Call it an obsession or a passion, but the Southeast Community College science instructor turned his digging, climbing, poking, researching, and photographing into “A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Nebraska.” Published this spring, it is the first time the guide has been updated since 1941.
“I was sick and tired of going around the state looking for amphibians and reptiles and not having a central field guide,” Fogell said. “I wanted a guide to help me see them. I did it for me and for the rest of the state to update our records.”
Fogell received grant money from the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and the Nebraska Herpetological Society to help complete the project, which he actually began about 12 years ago.
“I started doing it seriously in 2005,” Fogell said. “I started putting notes together, going through museum specimens and taking photographs of the species.”
The project took a fast track to being published after Fogell visited with his doctoral advisor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I showed her what I had done so far, and she asked me who I had lined up to publish it,” Fogell said. “I said no one. That’s when she contacted the Nebraska Maps and More folks, and a few others.”
The guide, published in June by UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is available for $17.99 at Nebraska Maps and More inside Hardin Hall on UNL’s East Campus. Fogell said 600 copies of the initial printing of 2,000 have been sold.
“That’s impressive for only being out since the third week of June,” Fogell said. “I’ve already gotten calls from all over the state. It’s doing exactly what I wanted it to do.”
Fogell, a Rhode Island native who has lived in Nebraska since 1986, traveled from Harrison, in the extreme northwest part of Nebraska, to Rulo, in the extreme southeast corner of the state, to locate the animals.
“Nebraska is not very well-known for its amphibians and reptiles,” he said. “The trouble is we don’t know what’s where. We find out new things all the time. With an updated field guide, people can find what they have in their backyards. The whole point is for me to get a better idea of the distribution of these animals in the future.”
Fogell, 47, is a herpetologist who teaches courses in human anatomy, human physiology, general biology, and zoology at SCC. His research interests are centered on the distributions of Great Plains amphibians and reptiles, as well as the various factors that affect those distributions, such as habitat availability, alterations in land use, and global climate change.
There are 62 species of amphibians and reptiles native to Nebraska, including two extremely rare species, Fogell said. For each species, Fogell wrote the descriptive details, took all of the photographs and created the maps showing where each could be found in the state. He geo-referenced the species by examining 14,000 records in 28 museums across the U.S.
Fogell said he encountered many surprises while conducting his research.