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History of the Tennessee Herpetological Society

The Tennessee Herpetological Society began as a loosely organized group in 1992. The group first met as a conference in October of 1994 at Lincoln Memorial University and hosted the first keynote speaker, Dr. George Folkerts of Auburn University. In 1995, the Conference members worked hard to pass a bill naming the Tennessee Cave Salamander as Tennessee's official State Amphibian, and the Eastern Box Turtle as the State Reptile.


In 1999, at the 5th Annual Tennessee Herpetology Conference at TN Tech University, conference attendees decided to establish an official organization to promote the research, conservation and education concerning reptiles and amphibians. The Tennessee Herpetological Society was formed and had its first annual meeting as a society in 2000 at Chickasaw State Park (6th annual Tennessee Herpetology Conference). The inaugural officers for the society included a range of professionals from private and public institutions across the state:

President: Lisa Powers, Froghaven Farm

Vice President: Pete Wyatt, TWRA

Treasurer: John Placyk, UT Knoxville

Recording Secretary: Pandy English, LEAPS

Membership Secretary: Terri Wildt, Warner Parks

Publications Secretary: Brian Miller, MTSU

Correspondence Secretary: Bob English, LEAPS

Sargent-at-Arms: John Byrd, Clinton High School

East TN Representative: Tommy Owens, Zoo Knoxville

Middle TN Representative: O. Ray Jordan, TN Tech

West TN Representative: Alan Peterson, TWRA

In 2009, lead by the efforts of O. Ray Jordan and under the direction of society president Dr. Brian Butterfield, the society created a memorial research grant in honor of the late Chadwick Lewis. Chad pursued a graduate degree studying herpetology at TN Tech University under the direction of Ray Jordan but unexpectedly died in an accident. His advisor, Ray Jordan, was instrumental in rallying the society to initiate the grant. The inaugural announcement of the Chad Lewis Memorial Grant is available for public view. The first recipients of this grant were Nathan Haislip (UT Knox) and Chris O'Bryan (APSU). Originally a $500 grant, the society now awards a $1000 fund for research to the winner. This grant is supported by the spirited live auction held at each annual THS meeting.

In 2017, thanks to the generous donation of Matt Niemiller, the society created a travel scholarship to support student travel to the annual conference. The first recipient was Todd Pierson of UT Knoxville for travel to the 2018 meeting at the Lichterman Nature Center. The society continues to give this award to students with the continued support of Dr. Niemiller as well as funds generated by the society.


To report news from the society and research and outreach efforts from its members, the society put together an annual newsletter for many years including natural history notes and research reports from across the state. However, in 2016 society members decided to begin publishing an annual journal to highlight research on Tennessee's reptiles and amphibians. The first volume of the Tennessee Journal of Herpetology was published in 2018 and has been published annually since. Each fall, the society continues to meet at the annual conference and publish important work on Tennessee's herpetofauna in the society journal. 


Pictured are some attendees of the 1995 meeting (2nd meeting) on Tennessee Herpetology, including Chadwick Lewis (far left). 

Society Newsletters

Society logo through the years

THS Black and White Logo.png
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