About herpetology and batrachology
Most points of reference will tell you that herpetology is the branch of zoology that studies the biology and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Although traditionally that is accurate, you are likely to encounter arguments for the term 'herpetology' to be only applied to reptiles - especially amongst evolutionary biologists. The main reason being that taxonomy should ideally reflect natural groups, and these two groups - reptiles and amphibians - have pretty different evolutionary history. As I can find no logical reason for the term 'herpetology' to be applied to both reptiles and amphibians, this website will maintain the distinction in nomenclature. Of course, this is only a very rough explanation of the argument for the distinction so feel free to do some reading and come to your own conclusion.
Anyone interested in reptiles and amphibians will probably enjoy field surveys. This is sometimes commonly referred to as 'herping'. Herping is the act of searching for these creatures in the wild. To do it properly, you will need to research the area you are exploring and find out which species you are likely to encounter. It is also a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of the local species so that you can start your field survey adventure at the right time of the day (or night) and increase your chances of spotting them.
It may seem pointless to the average person on the street but this can be extremely valuable to conservation work. If you're interested in getting involved, check out what your local Reptiles & Amphibians group is up to as they usually organise trips and are involved in conservation work that can do with as many volunteers as possible.
How can I help?
If you live in the UK and spot a reptile or amphibian while you are out and about, you can log this sighting in any of the many records available and help ecological institutions and charities monitor the size of populations and occurrence of certain species throughout the UK. The Biological Records Centre has recently launched a new app called iRecord App. Unlike their previously launched apps that focus on certain species and families, this new app supports many different types of animals ranging from mammals to insects.
It is worth noting that there are a number of sighting recording tools available on the internet. For instance, ARG UK have a collaboration with Record Pool - which is a web based recording tool. There are many options out there so do some digging and find out what suits you best.
What about herpetoculture?
Reptile and amphibian keepers usually refer to their hobby as 'herpetoculture'. Although you will find that most professional herpetologists and batrachologists consider captive propagation a conservation tool, their idea of how this is monitored and managed tends to be different from what most 'herpetoculturists' have in mind. Therefore, you will often hear ill-informed reptile and amphibian keepers mistakenly using this concept as an aid to defend their hobby. This article on the anapsid.org website explains this issue in further details.
If you have read any of my blog posts, you will have noticed that despite keeping reptiles myself (I explain why in the blog posts), I do believe that it would be best if the keeping of these animals was regulated. Having said that, as things stand, our best bet is to try and educate as many keepers as possible in order to avoid poor animal care as well as preventing even more of these types of animals from being abandoned. It is also important to ensure that people understand the impact that buying wild-caught animals has on wild populations.
Therefore, if you keep reptiles and amphibians or are thinking of keeping them, I would strongly recommend that you read John Courtney-Smith's books from Arcadia Reptiles, especially the one titled 'Bio-Activity and the Theory of Wild Recreation'. I wrote a review of this book a while ago - click here if you'd like to check it out.
If you are interested in herpetology and batrachology but is not sure where to start, some organisations offer short courses throughout the UK. The below links are some of my favourite points of reference and a good way to get started. Check out their website to see what they offer.
In addition to the links above, I have also put together a few blogs and websites that I read or visit on a regular basis. They are a great way to stay updated and learn about herptiles.