The NAFHA California Chapter reigns over the entire state of California. California contains 163,696 square miles and is the third-largest U.S. state, behind only Alaska and Texas. Our state is one of the most diverse areas of the North American continent in terms of herp habitat, with geography that includes the Pacific coast on the west, the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, the Mojave and Colorado deserts in the southeast and the great Redwood and Douglas Fir forests in the northwest. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley which is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. California is also home to both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States, represented by Mt. Whitney at an elevation of 14,505 feet and the Badwater Basin in Death Valley at a negative elevation of 282 feet below sea level. Although California is generally thought of as being a hot arid region, nearly 40% of the state is forested.
As one would expect from such a diverse geography, California is also rich in herpetofauna diversity. Our region is home to 172 herpetological species which total 240 forms (species & subspecies), 65 of which are endemic to California.
Although we enjoy a great diversity of reptiles and amphibians in California, we also have the largest human population in the country. In some areas of our state the human impact on herp environments and habitats has been devastating, and remains a serious concern for the future. It is this concern that has inspired many of our California Chapter members to take advantage of opportunities to get involved with land managers, conservancies and state agencies in order to do whatever we can to promote better understanding and management of our native California herpetofauna. NAFHA California Chapter member involvement in projects such as the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, the Escondido Creek Conservancy, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, and the California Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern program, as well as the individual efforts of members to educate the public about our native wildlife and the importance of conservation, stand as a testament to the enthusiasm and dedication of our members towards achieving the goals of the NAFHA.
As is true with all other regional NAFHA chapters, the majority of our California Chapter members are amateur herpetologists and citizen scientists who dedicate much of their recreational time to searching for amphibians and reptiles in the field and documenting information for the HERP database. However, our California Chapter membership also boasts some heavy credentials with members who are professional herpetologists, field biologists, research biologists, biology teachers, authors of herp-related books, and webmasters of informative herp-related web sites.
2012 NAFHA California Chapter Board of Directors
President: Brian Hinds
Vice-President: Rob schell
Secretary: Taylor Henry
Conservation Officer: Robert Hess
Education Specialist: Josh Cummings
International Board Members: Brian Hinds & Jim Bass
Jeff Lemm 2006-2008
Kent Vansooy 2009-2011
Kent Vansooy 2009-2011
The California Chapter Database Contest
During the first two years of the HERP database, herpers in California did not participate as strongly as herpers in some other regions. One reason for this was that the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast chapters of NAFHA had individuals who were actively promoting the database, as well as contests for the posting of database entries. As a result, the data from these chapters was more diverse and came in more frequently than data in California, despite the large number of field herpers in the SoCal chapter. In order to address this shortage of data, Jonathan Hakim suggested starting a Southern California database contest in 2009.
The Southern California NAFHA community reacted positively to the idea of a contest. The chapter agreed as a group to reward species that were being entered for the first time in Southern California, species that were being entered for the first time in each county, entries that represented the first of their type for 2009, and overall species/county diversity. Everyone was welcome to participate, photo vouchers were required, and all entries had to include basic location, date, and time information. The prizes offered were a simple certificate and bragging rights.
The contest was a huge success. Forty-nine field herpers entered data for Southern California in 2009, over thirty of whom had never participated in the database before. Most of the experienced posters increased the amount of data they were entering, and the new and old posters together imputed over 5,000 data entries from Southern California. The contest incentives also increased the diversity of data that was posted. In 2009 there were 42 new species and subspecies entered that were not recorded in the database for SoCal before, along with 320 species/county combinations that had never been recorded in the database, elevating Southern California to one of the best-covered regions in North America among the NAFHA chapters.
The following members were the Top 10 finishers in the 2009 Southern California Database Contest:
Todd Battey 520 points
Jonathan Hakim 453 points
Brian Hinds 246 points
Jack Goldfarb 242 points
Brian Hubbs 187 points
John Lauermann 173 points
Jim Bass 139 points
Jeff Teel 127 points
Steve Bledsoe 108 points
Richard Morgan 93 points
Honorable Mention recognition went to Will Flaxington for his 2009 contribution to the database consisting of years of personal historical records . With the help of Jonathan Hakim, Will entered an astounding 2945 individual records to the database. Although Will did not receive contest credit for entering these records, the database and all of our members are the beneficiaries of his gift.
The contest had some peripheral benefits that will continue to produce dividends. Jonathan's frequent updates ensured that the database remained a visible topic on the Southern California forum throughout the year, helping to remind established members about their data and encouraging new members to get involved in recording data. The reports on what other forum members were entering motivated members to check each others' data more often and initiated many conversations on the sightings that had been made, on occasion leading to corrections in identification or new information on species range. Scientists working with California Fish and Game made a request to use our database entries to assist in their upcoming determinations for the Amphibians and Reptiles Species of Special Concern list, something that would not have been nearly as helpful for them before the database contest started. They ended up receiving over 350 data entries for 15 different species to assist in their determination. And a few SoCal members collaborated with other NAFHA members to plan a National Database Contest that started on January 1, 2010, sparking interest in parts of the country that do not yet have widespread database participation.
Through these contests, continued communication about the database, and the support of members, the database should continue to grow into a useful tool for the herpetological community.
California Chapter Record Count by County
Click here to view the current HERP record totals for the SoCal Chapter