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UNF Limnology Students perform field work at Lake Oneida.
Salt marsh
Oyster beds
Students and professor working with a Benthic tray
gator hatchling
entire class crossing florida creek
Two Herons

Joseph A. Butler

Joseph A. Butler headshot


Faculty Bio


Phone: (904) 620-2831

Office: Building 59, Room 2304


Research Interests

Herpetology, Wildlife Conservation - Terrapins and Gopher Tortoises, Wildlife Conservation issues, especially Turtles, Gopher Tortoises, Interests also extend to the Environment, Coastal Biology, Zoology, Ecology


Areas of Expertise

Teaching Responsibilities: General Biology, Herpetology, Canine Anatomy, Parasitology, Human Structure and Function, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Human Anatomy and Physiology



B.S. (Business) Miami Univ. (1970)

B.S. (Education) Miami Univ. (1970)

M.S. (Zoology) Ohio State Univ. (1977)

Ph.D. (Zoology) Ohio State Univ. (1978)



Throughout my career as a herpetologist I have enjoyed researching a variety of organisms. Early in my career I studied snake ecology, and as a visiting professor at University of Ibadan in Nigeria for a year I investigated the reproductive biology of several species. Since my arrival in Florida I have worked primarily with turtles beginning with a study of a population of gopher tortoises on campus. Working with teams of undergraduate assistants we studied adult reproduction, followed free ranging hatchlings with radio telemetry for two years, and most recently we have been evaluating the effects of prescribed burning on the vegetation within the tortoise habitat. I have had three graduate students work on gopher tortoise ecology for their theses. My students and I were funded by the US fish and Wildlife Service to prepare the 12-month finding on the petition to list gopher tortoises as Threatened throughout their range. Also, I have worked extensively with Carolina diamondback terrapins in the marshes and tidal creeks of the local Intracoastal Waterway. Again with student teams we have analyzed nest deposition and predation, clutch sizes, emergence periods, and hatchling sizes and behavior. We have also used telemetry to follow adult terrapins from different areas through several seasons which allowed us to assess home range, variation in habitat usage, and hibernation behavior. I have had two graduate students do their theses on terrapins. I have also studied Terrapins elsewhere in the state while testing "bycatch reduction devices" which would prevent most terrapins from entering blue crab traps. Terrapins enter these traps and drown, and it is thought that this is the greatest source of mortality for this species throughout their range. Over the years, I have received funding from the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Sea Grant Program, NOAA, the Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Gopher Tortoise Council.


Selected Publications


Butler, J.A and G.L. Heinrich. 2013. Distribution of the ornate diamondback terrapin in the Big Bend region of Florida. Southeastern Naturalist 12:552-567.

Clark, K., K. Savick, and J.A. Butler, 2012. Babesia microti in rodents and raccoons in northeast Florida. Journal of Parasitology.


Butler, J.A., G.L. Heinrich, and M.L. Mitchell. 2012. Diet of the Carolina diamondback terrapin in northeastern Florida. Chelonian Conservation Biology 11:124-128. 


Munscher, E.C., E.H. Kuhns, C.A. Cox, and J.A. Butler. 2012. Decreased nest mortality for the Carolina diamondback terrapin following removal of raccoons from a nesting beach. Herpetological Conservation Biology 7:167-184.