Herndon Dowling Collection donated to WestConn

Associate Professor of Biology at Western Connecticut State University, Dr. Theodora Pinou has arranged for the transfer to WestConn the Herndon G. Dowling Herpetological Library. Dr. Pinou is the Coordinator Secondary Education Science, Herpetology, Snake Systematics at WCSU and was awarded the “Excellence in Teaching” Award by the WCSU Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success in the spring of 2014. When Dr. Pinou was a student, Herndon Dowling was her teacher and mentor in herpetology. Dowling’s seventy years of herpetological field studies took him to Mexico, through the United States, Galapagos Islands, Burma, Germany, and India. He was a snake systematist with major interests in snake morphology and its influence upon snake evolution. In addition to fieldwork, Dowling spent much time in museums and working with herpetological collections observing, recording, and analyzing specimens. His notes include measurements, detailed scale counts, osteology, hemipenes, coloration, behavior, and patterning where possible. It is estimated that Dowling examined and recorded data from nearly all known snake lineages and genera. His notes and documentation are unique and invaluable to the field of herpetology.

In addition to Dowling’s notes, there are maps of snake distributions, photographs, statistical data, and original drawings of snake skulls, vertebrae, hemipenes, scale patterns, and hyoid bones. Each drawing represents a dedicated museum specimen or a specimen in Dowling’s osteological collection now housed at Pinou’s research lab at Western Connecticut State University. Tissue samples for most of the later specimens are banked in the research labs at the University of Maryland and Western Connecticut State University. The collection also includes published materials (books and journals) including all of Dowling’s scientific and popular papers and correspondence that span his scientific career.

It is the intent of the WCSU, its Archives and Biology Department that this important collection is utilized by students, faculty, and researchers beyond WCSU. Dowling’s historical research in the field of herpetology is unique among other collections in this discipline and is also unique in subject matter to collections at WCSU. The intimate understanding that Dr. Pinou possesses regarding Dowling’s research makes her a vital component in processing and making these materials accessible to researchers.

(images show Dr. Pinou reviewing pieces from the Dowling collection)