Amphibians and Reptiles of the Philippines
PhD student and Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellow, University of Kansas
2011 EOL Fellow
Cameron Siler is Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kansas, completing his dissertation study on body form evolution in a group of Southeast Asian lizards. Although he grew up fascinated with amphibians and reptiles, Cameron’s experience in research began in his first year of undergraduate study at the University of Texas at Austin, where he volunteered in a lab of an evolutionary biologist. Over the next four years, Cameron collaboratively studied Philippine species of frogs, lizards, and snakes. Upon graduating from the University of Texas in 2004, Cameron was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and spent 10 months surveying the central islands of the Philippines as part of a conservation-based project aimed at better understanding the region's frog diversity.
After returning to the U.S., Cameron entered a PhD program at the University of Kansas and was awarded the prestigious KU Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship. Over the last six years, Cameron’s research has focused on studying the diversity of Philippine amphibians and reptiles, an effort that has resulted in 31 publications and numerous grants, including a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant. In 2008, Cameron was awarded a nine-month Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship to expand upon his conservation-based biodiversity studies in the Philippines.
As an EOL Rubenstein Fellow, Cameron will develop detailed species accounts for the amphibians and reptiles of the Philippine islands. The regionalized biodiversity across the Philippines is unique: 79% of the amphibian species and 68% of the reptile species are endemic to the Philippines. Conservation International classifies the Philippines as both a “Megadiverse” nation and an ecological “Hotspot.” However, over the last 75 years, the country has experienced a loss of nearly 90% of its primary rain forest. Unfortunately, data available for this incredible, largely endemic diversity of vertebrates remains sparse. Cameron’s Philippine Biodiversity Research and Education Outreach (PhilBREO) project will establish a publicly available database of biodiversity information and educational tools, through collaborations with the Encyclopedia of Life, as well as other online databases, such as AmphibiaWeb, HerpWatch Philippines, and The Reptile Database. Cameron will build upon previous studies of the area, and provide a synthesis of historical and present observations of Philippine amphibian and reptile biodiversity that will greatly improve the effectiveness of conservation planning.