Theodore Papenfuss and Gabriela Parra-Olea
Theodore Papenfuss, Gabriela Parra-Olea and group
Antonio Muñoz Alonzo (ECOSUR graduate student), Carlos Vásquez Almazán (Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala), Theodore J. Papenfuss (UC Berkeley), Gabriela Parra-Olea (UNAM), and David B. Wake (UC Berkeley) on a field trip along the Chiapas/Guatemala border.Photo by Sean M. Rovito.

Theodore Papenfuss, from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley, and Gabriela Parra-Olea, from the Instituto de Biología, UNAM, were awarded a 2006 UC MEXUS-CONACYT collaborative research grant to undertake research on the distribution and phylogeography of rare salamander species in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico. Parra-Olea is currently spending the 2008-2009 academic year at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, hosted by David and Marvalee Wake and supported by a UC MEXUS-CONACYT Visiting Scholar Fellowship. Papenfuss' and Parra-Olea's research has uncovered dramatic declines in the abundance and diversity of salamanders in both Mexico and adjacent Guatemala, based on a comparison of the project's recent surveys with those conducted by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in the 1970s. The results have received worldwide attention due to a just-published paper, "Dramatic declines in neotropical salamander populations are an important part of the global amphibian crisis," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sean Rovito, the lead author, is a UCB graduate student at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and part of the research team for UC MEXUS-CONACYT grant. Papenfuss and Parra-Olea plan to continue detailed surveys of Mexican salamanders, particularly in Oaxaca, where 14 of the 32 salamander species found there are listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's 2008 Red Data List as either endangered or critically endangered. For further information, Dr. Parra-Olea can be contacted at and Dr. Papenfuss at

Addendum: In 2010, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UCB, and Instituto de Biología, UNAM, team was awarded a 3 year grant from NSF for research developed from this initial seed grant and fellowship support.

Bolitoglossa lincolni
Bolitoglossa lincolni, a salamander species restricted to Chiapas and Guatemala. Photo by Sean M. Rovito