Your old digital camera might sit in a closet now that it's been upstaged by the new one you got for Christmas - but it could still have a vital photographic future.

A Tucson-based conservation group would like to put your no-longer-needed cameras, GPS units and other gear into the hands of biologists and volunteers for use in field research in Ecuador, Mexico and elsewhere.

The group - Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International - says the donated gear is vitally important because such equipment isn't readily available in many areas.

"Biologists and others working in impoverished regions often don't have the resources they need to work effectively - and this program could put cameras and other crucial tools in their hands," said Paul Hamilton, executive director of the group.

He described its mission as "discovering, documenting and saving the diversity of life - with emphasis on reptiles and amphibians."

Hamilton said the group seeks out residents of its reptile and amphibian study areas who have knowledge of the local ecosystems and the ability to conduct fieldwork.

The residents are provided with cameras, GPS units and other gear - along with training and a research manual.

"They are also taught the technical skills needed to take photos and field data, and given instructions on how to get their photos and data to biologists who can use them," Hamilton said.

He said the group has an extensive wish list - including notebook computers, iPhones, sound recording equipment, water filters and more - but the most-needed donations are digital cameras and GPS units.

"If you find an animal in the field, the two bits of information that are most important are its identity and where it is," Hamilton said. "Someone equipped with a combination of a camera and GPS unit can get that data."

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192.