Jeff Ettling



PhD student, 2005 - present, University of Missouri - St. Louis
MS Biology, 1994, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
BS Biology, 1986, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

Professional Experience:

1996 - present: Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics, Saint Louis Zoo
1995 - 1996: Associate Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics, Saint Louis Zoo
1991 - 1995: Curator of Herpetology, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS
1987 - 1991: Herpetarium Keeper/Supervisor, Saint Louis Zoo

Research Interests:

I am interested in the ecology, evolution and conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles, with a particular emphasis on mountain vipers (Montivipera) of the Caucasus and Transcaucasus regions. The aforementioned regions include portions of northern Iran, eastern Turkey, and the former USSR republics around the southern Caucasus. Many vipers inhabiting these areas are threatened with extinction due to restricted distributions, habitat destruction/alteration, over-collection for the pet trade and high mortality from human persecution. The genus Montivipera is comprised of eight species. We know very little about the biology of most of these species due in part to their restricted and isolated distributions.

Since 2004 I have been collaborating with my Armenian and Russian colleagues on a study of the spatial ecology and population structure of the Armenian viper, Montivipera raddei in the mountains of Armenia. We are using radiotelemetry and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology to determine home range size, seasonal movement patterns and habitat preferences. We are examining the population structure of M. raddei using microsatellites. The primary goals of this portion of the study are to assess the genetic distinctiveness of populations, evaluate the genetic variation within and between populations, and determine whether human modifications to the landscape have disrupted gene flow between local populations. Given the fragmented distribution of M. raddei and the ever increasing human impact on its population numbers and habitat, a comprehensive conservation management plan is needed. Data from our long-term study will be used to help draft a conservation plan for the species.

In addition to my studies overseas, I am also actively involved in conservation efforts for amphibians and reptiles native to Missouri. Most notably is the collaboration of the Saint Louis Zoo's WildCare Institute Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and several universities in conservation efforts for the eastern hellbender, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis and Ozark hellbender, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi. Missouri is the only state where both subspecies occur and they are both listed by MDC as endangered. In addition to assisting with population censusing and other fieldwork, the zoo staff is working to establish a captive breeding program for the Ozark hellbender, C. a. bishopi. Neither subspecies has ever been bred in captivity before. Our goal is to be able to produce stock that can be used for reintroduction efforts.


  • Dierenfeld, E.S., K.J. McGraw, K. Fritsche, J. Briggler, and J. Ettling. 2009. Nutrient composition of whole crayfish (Orconectes and Procambarus species) consumed by hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis). Herpetological Review 40(3): 324-330.
  • Briggler, J.T., J. Utrup, C. Davidson, J. Humphries, J. Groves, T. Johnson, J. Ettling, M. Wanner, K. Traylor-Holzer, D. Reed, V. Lindgren, and O. Byers (eds.). 2007.
  • Hellbender Population and Habitat Viability Assessment: Final Report. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, MN.
  • Ettling, J. 2005. Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute: Center for the Conservation of Near East Mountain Vipers. Herpetological Review 36(3): 231-232.
  • ________, and A. Marfisi. 2002. Male combat in two species of mountain vipers, Montivipera raddei and M. wagneri. In G.W. Schuett, M. Höggren, M.E. Douglas and H.W. Greene (eds.), Biology of the Vipers, pp. 163-166. Eagle Mountain Publishing, Eagle Mountain, UT.
  • ________. 1996. Natural history, husbandry, and captive reproduction of mountain vipers (Vipera bornmuelleri and Vipera wagneri). In P. Strimple (ed.), Advances in Herpetoculture, pp. 139-144. International Herpetological Symposium, Inc.