The Burke Museum Herpetological Collection was established in 1984 by Dr. Keith Aubry with ca. 1,000 amphibian specimens collected in Douglas-fir forests of western Washington under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service's Old Growth Forest Wildlife Habitat Research Program. The collection also adopted many specimens left at the University of Washington that date from earlier in the 20th century, including material acquired by William Hebard, Eric Pianka, Richard Snyder, and Arthur Svihla. Some material, including the early Pianka collection, was transferred to other museums.
Dr. Aubry served as Affiliate Curator of the collection for 20 years, while maintaining a full-time research position at the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Olympia, Washington. Dr. Aubry began the computerized specimen catalog, developed a collection manual, and facilitated additional specimen acquisitions from other large-scale research programs conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1999, Dr. Brad Moon, then a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, became a Curatorial Associate and took over many of the curatorial duties, but Dr. Aubry remained Affiliate Curator. During his tenure, Dr. Moon developed a website that included an overview and brief history of the collection, a list of publications based on specimens in the collection, and species accounts of Washington amphibians and reptiles.
In 2002, Dr. Marc Hayes assumed part-time curatorial responsibilities after Dr. Moon left for a faculty position in Louisiana. In 2004, the collection was moved into a new location within the museum.
In 2010, Dr. Adam Leaché joined the Burke Museum as Curator of Genetic Resources and Herpetology. The entire collection was inventoried, catalogued, and georeferenced. In 2012 the herpetology collection joined Arctos, a collaborative effort to share database resources and to standardize collection data on the web. This transition made the Burke Herpetology data searchable and mappable to the public for the first time.