The Illinois Natural History Survey houses two separate herpetology collections, the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection (INHS) and the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History Amphibian and Reptile Collection (UIMNH).

The Illinois Natural History Survey Amphibian and Reptile Collection

The INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection contains approximately 40,000 catalogued specimens, representing 55 families and over 550 species (51% Amphibia, 49% Reptilia). The geographical emphasis is Illinois (75%). This is the result of the efforts of Phil W. Smith, who collected specimens from 1935 to 1949 for his comprehensive study “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois,” published in 1961. In addition to the Illinois material, the INHS collection also houses specimens from 45 other U.S. states, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Most notable among these are specimens collected by P.W. Smith from California (1943-1952) and Mexico (1957-1965), specimens of S.A. Minton from Pakistan, Mexico and Texas and specimens from Thailand collected by R.W. Larimore (1963). We are currently compiling a list of major collectors associated with the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection, including short bios.

We also maintain a tissue collection that contains high quality tissues from a portion of our vouchered specimens, mostly those collected after 1998. This collection may be searched by choosing the appropriate link from the Data tab, above. The search engine will deliver limited location information. Detailed location data may be obtained by contacting thcurator, Chris Phillips.


Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor- chrysoscelis), J. Crawford photo


The first catalogue ledger of the Illinois Natural History Survey Amphibian and Reptile Collection was started in 1941.  The first 879 entries were transcribed from index cards and include specimens collected as far back as 1870.  Most of these early specimens do not include collector information.  The earliest specimen with collector information is an Eastern Massasauga collected by Stephen A. Forbes in Pekin, Illinois in 1873.  Also among these earliest records with collector data are specimens from Colorado collected by George Cooper and C.C. Crandall (possibly Christopher C. Crandall) in 1875.  Other early collectors include Franklin Sumner Earle (specimens collected in Union Co., IL; 1877); Harrison Garman (Marshall Co., IL; 1878); H.A. Surface (Mason Co., IL; 1882) and Julius Hurter (Madison Co., IL; 1896).  See “A History of Herpetology in Illinois” for more information on early herpetologists in Illinois and List of INHS Collectors.  Stephen A. Forbes reported to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in 1886 that he had just completed moving all property from the former State Laboratory of Natural History facilities in Normal, IL.  Included in this list were 1,400 specimens of amphibians and reptiles. Unfortunately, It seems that many of these early specimens did not survive to be catalogued in 1941.

Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis), A.R. Kuhns photo

The University of Illinois Museum of Natural History Collection

In October 1997, the INHS took over curation and management of the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History (UIMNH) Amphibian and Reptile Collection. The two collections were NOT merged, but no new specimens are being added to the UIMNH collection.  Information about the UIMNH collection, including a searchable database of holdings and an updated Catalogue of Primary Types, can be found at the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History page.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), A.R. Kuhns photo

Location and Access

Both the INHS and UIMNH collections are housed on the first floor of the Natural Resources Building on the campus of the University of Illinois.

Access to the collection by qualified researchers is normally available from 8:30am-5pm M-F and may be arranged by contacting the curator, Dr. Chris Phillips.

Natural Resources Building circa 1954

Specimen Loans

Specimen loans are available to qualified researchers.  Loans are generally made for a period of one year, renewable upon request.  Primary types are generally loaned for a period of one month from the date received by the borrower and are non-renewable. For more information, please contact the curator, Dr. Chris Phillips.

Details of the collection policy

Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), E. Kessler photo