Posts Tagged science writing

Herpetological Review: The Herpetological Art of Robert Cyril Stebbins

It has been some time since my last contribution to the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles‘ journal, Herpetological Review (see also SSAR’s facebook page), so I was honored when I was asked to contribute a retrospective on the late herpetologist and artist Dr. Robert (“Bob”) Cyril Stebbins (March 31, 1915—September 23, 2013) for the column, “Art in Herpetology.”

Hot off the presses in the second issue of the 2017 volume (page 472-473), The Herpetological Art of Robert Cyril Stebbins looks back at the life and career of a man whose contributions to the field of herpetology are still not only celebrated, but put to work on a daily basis as biologists young and old pick up their copy of Stebbins’ field guide, A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, and thumb through the pages to identify this or that lizard, check a species’ range, or compare a specimen to the carefully illustrated plates within.

In the process of preparing this piece, I had the opportunity to handle Dr. Stebbins field notebooks and original intricate illustrations at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Bancroft Library, and had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Emeritus David B. Wake, former Director and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Theodore Papenfuss, research specialist at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, about their experience working alongside this venerable herpetologist. But nothing says more about Dr. Stebbins’ passion for herpetology than his artwork.

Full Citation: Bettelheim, Matthew P. 2017. Art in Herpetology: The Herpetological Art of Robert Cyril Stebbins. Herpetological Review 48(2): p 472-473.

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Herpetological Review: Scribner’s Monthly’s “In the Larder”

In the Larder HR 44-2 2013I am again excited to announce the publication of my most recent contribution to the new quarterly column, “Art in Herpetology,” one of the many new features of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles‘ new-and-improved, full-color journal, Herpetological Review (see also SSAR’s facebook page).

Hot off the presses in the second issue of the 2013 volume (page 253), you’ll find featured the moody engraving In the Larder prepared for the article, “Canvas-Back and Terrapin“, in the 1877 issue of Scribner’s Monthly magazine. In the gloomy larder depicted therein teeter two terrapins, surrounded by other decadences of the 19th Century – oysters, canvas-back ducks, Flor Fina cigars, Bordeaux wine.

Like the Pacific Coast’s western pond turtle (before the market demand for western pond turtle, in fact), diamond-back terrapins were collected along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, first as a staple to feed slaves and later, as their numbers waned, as a culinary delicacy destined for the linened tables of the upperclass. Because so little is known about the market trade in “terrapins” along the Pacific Coast, species like the diamond-back terrapin can be used as a model to better understand the market demands for, harvest techniques in pursuit of, and eventual decline in western pond turtle populations throughout California and the west

Full Citation: Bettelheim, Matthew P. 2013. Art in Herpetology. Herpetological Review 44(2): p 253.

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Herpetological Review: Jacques Burkhardt’s Western Pond Turtle

I am excited to announce that I was recently asked to contribute to the new quarterly column, “Art in Herpetology,” one of the many new features of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles‘ new-and-improved, full-color journal, Herpetological Review (see also SSAR’s facebook page).

Hot off the presses in the third issue of the 2011 volume (page 382), you’ll find featured the never-before-published watercolor work of Jacques Burkhardt, one of over 900 scientific illustrations in the Ernt Mayr LIbrary‘s Jacques Burkhardt Collection in the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University. And of course, the skeletal turtle illustrated is none other than a western pond turtle, noted in this undated watercolor illustration as Actinemys marmorata.

This is just one of two western pond turtle illustrations in the collection – the first (featured here) from the San Francisco area [Physical Piece Id: bAg 168.60.10 (10)a], the second from Southern California ca. 1856 [Physical Piece Id: bAg 168.60.10 (23)a].

Full Citation: Bettelheim, Matthew P. 2011. Art in Herpetology. Herpetological Review 42(3): p 382.

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Outdoor California: The Western Pond Turtle

In the first of many acts of Shameless Promotion, I’m excited to announce the publication of my most recent article in the California Department of Fish and Game’s magazine, Outdoor California.

In addition to covering CDFG’s ongoing work with western pond turtles, including the forthcoming release of the long-awaited Western Pond Turtle Conservation Strategy, the article also plugs the hard work of Sonoma State University associate professor Dr. Nicholas Geist (and lab!) and their research investigating the role of temperature-dependant sex determination in western pond turtles. Also featured is the stellar photography of my wife, photographer Sarah Anne, and the debut of my very own “Field Guide to the Western Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata)” (see page 30), a stand-alone poster I’ve been cobbling together to illustrate the general field markings and sexually dimorphic traits (tail length, snout shape, etc.) characteristic of the species (more on that to come).

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