Monday, November 30, 2009

ALAPARC Flickr page now online

Can't get your fix of herps during dead-time this winter? Check out ALAPARC's new Flickr page, where you can have access to a full selection of visual treats involving Alabama herps.

Spread the word, and consider contributing photos yourself! We currently have photos contributed from the likes of Dave Steen, Heather Cunningham, Matt Greene, and Ken Dodd...but we'd love more! You can email photos (with a short caption for each) to or

Monday, November 16, 2009

ALAPARC now on Facebook

ALAPARC now has a Facebook page! If you have a Facebook profile, go check it out, become a fan, and even feel free to add some photos or start a discussion!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Send us your pics!!!

Do you have outstanding, high quality photos of herps, their habitat (pristine or mangled), management activities, or herp-related events in Alabama? We need them! ALAPARC is building a Flickr page to archive our visual goings-on in the state and to keep the public and unknowing passers-by informed of what our group is doing. This will be an easy way to increase public interest in the group and "spread the word" of herp conservation in the state. But we need your help...., if you have Flickr-worthy photos that you'd like to contribute, send them to or (limit two per person, please. Once the site is established, we'll call for more). Please include your name, where the photo was taken, the date, and any other relevant information (species in the photo, descriptions of interesting natural history observations, etc.). All photographers will be given credit for their respective photos, and we'll be using them with your permission, of course. Send us your best!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ALAPARC Hellbender Initiative

In addition to the official initiative site here, Readers will now be able to hear of ALAPARC's Hellbender Initiative via this blog.

In many states where hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) were once common, drastic declines have occurred, and this salamander is now one of the most imperiled amphibians in North America. Museum collections indicate hellbenders once occurred in many drainages in northern Alabama, however, the last verified record of a living hellbender in this state was in 1990 (see below).

The purpose of this initiative is to generate voluntary interest from experienced herpetologists in Alabama to determine the current range and status of Alabama hellbenders. Early thoughts on how this could easily and cheaply be accomplished are:

1. A request for possible unverified or unpublished reports of hellbenders to develop a database of all known collection records; this request will be channeled through an existing hellbender information-sharing website.

2. An adopt-a-stream program to pool effort among interested volunteers; each individual will devote at least four sampling occasions per year for at least one historic hellbender collection site.

3. A bioblitz competition in which individuals with experience trapping or collecting hellbenders—as well as other interested participants—will be encouraged to document living hellbenders on a competitive basis.

4. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to purchase materials for the construction of traps, which can be utilized for determining presence/absence of hellbenders with minimal effort, and could be incorporated into the adopt-a-stream program.

5. Acquisition of funds (grants or donations) to distribute educational materials near bridge crossings and other fishing spots in northern Alabama within the potential range of hellbenders to solicit information and cooperation among locals.

Is this the last Alabama hellbender?

To the left is a photo of the last hellbender found in Alabama in March of 1990.

Have you seen a hellbender recently?

If you've seen a hellbender or caught one while fishing, please report it!

Go to to report hellbender occurrence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Meeting Summary

You had to be there to experience all the ALAPARC inaugural meeting had to offer, but the co-chairs have attempted a summary:

We held our inaugural meeting on November 6-8 at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Andalusia, Alabama, and we are so pleased with the outcome. Our weekend and our meeting kicked off Friday night at our welcome social, the centerpiece of which was a canoe full of beer, which we contained in biodegradable cups provided by Off The Vine Produce. Participants streamed in as the Red Hills Salamander Discussion Group ended and feasted on delicious quesadillas provided by Karan Bailey. Wild sausage balls a la Stiles were a huge hit. Each of the appetizers were dipped at one point or another in Sean Graham’s tailgater’s delight Hormel Chili cheese dip. Attendees ignored warning signs regarding the relative heat of this dip at their own peril.

Energized by coffee provided by Higher Ground Roasters, Saturday morning’s talks began with a welcome by Co-Chair David Steen, with photos of beautiful environments and imperiled amphibians and reptiles from throughout the state. Our invited speakers gave us inspiration for the conservation road ahead. Among several esteemed individuals, this session included Matt Aresco, who gave an inspiring account of his odyssey to protect turtles in Florida and Alabama. Ken Dodd, who has strived for conservation causes throughout his long tenure in the southeast, provided sobering news regarding the Flattened Musk Turtle and Red Hills Salamander.

Three ALAPARC initiatives were officially announced and a lively discussion of the current status of Alabama hellbenders ensued. It is clear that the gopher frog, hellbender, and education/outreach initiatives will each get underway very soon, and many interested parties have exchanged information and emails to get the ball rolling on the three initiatives. Linda Weir provided a background of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program and highlighted how Alabama represented a gap in coverage.

Saturday neared conclusion with a simultaneously entertaining and shocking presentation by Michael Bloxom, an Alabama wildlife law enforcement official, who chronicled his years busting bad guys selling illegally collected reptiles. Shawn Jacobsen finished the day with a tribute to George Folkerts, infusing many with a renewed respect for this Alabama conservation champion.

We enjoyed a delicious southern fried seafood feast on Saturday night which was made by the skilled chefs at the Dixon Center and provided by a generous donation by Project Orianne. Many felt the meal alone was worth the price of registration! They were then floored when the beer continued to flow during the official ALAPARC 2009 meeting social and poster session. Thinking caps were donned as those daring enough took part in the first annual ALAPARC lab practical trivia quiz. This crossword-style quiz featured many native Alabama herps and specimens from the Auburn University collection. Knowledge of herp nomenclature wasn’t sufficient to complete this challenge; participants also had to be schooled in the lore of Alabama herpetology, from both sides of the Black Warrior.

The “facultyesque” category was won by Mark Bailey; however, the “student” category was a tie between Bill Sutton and Helen Czech, necessitating a frog call-off tie-breaker with Helen emerging as the winner with an impressive Hyla versicolor trill. Despite George Cline’s protestations that the noise was more accurately described as Hyla chrysoscelis, Helen took home the prize, an ALAPARC t-shirt (available at Later, Bailey’s win was challenged and an impromptu call-off took place between John Jensen, Bailey, and Eric Soehren. Jim Godwin won despite his lack of membership in the contest. Since Jim cheated, Mark retained the crown.

Day three of the meeting was composed of submitted research talks and the audience was thrilled by the diversity of research and conservation efforts in the state. Some of the talks included Thane Wibbels’ report of the past, present, and future of Alabama terrapins, Chris Thawley’s interesting report on niche modeling in non-native frogs, Samantha Collin’s report on canebrake reproduction, and Bill Sutton’s reports on post-fire effects in the Bankhead National Forest, among many other excellent talks. Check out the meeting program for abstracts of all the presentations.

After closing words from Sean, we enjoyed another terrific lunch from the Dixon Center and a group photo. Sadness over leaving was tempered by the hope of good things to come, a renewed sense of purpose, and the prospect of returning next year to be together again and see what we found in our dipnets since we last met.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Now What?

It was greatly encouraging this weekend to see nearly 80 individuals interested in the conservation of Alabama's amphibians and reptiles converge on Andalusia for the inaugural meeting of ALAPARC. Over thirty presentations were delivered on everything from diamondback terrapin biology and conservation along the Alabama coast to the effects of forestry on wildlife assemblages in Bankhead National Forest to the quest to document the status of any remaining hellbenders in the streams along the northern border of the state. It was great to learn about all the different efforts that have are currently underway and inspiring to see so many people working to conserve Alabama's herps.

The challenge is now to harness and sustain the enthusiasm on display this weekend to further advance Alabama amphibian and reptile conservation. Check out our website to learn about our initiatives and consider forming one yourself. Let us know how you would like to get involved.

We hope to see you next year.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Cole

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Inaugural Meeting Starts Tomorrow

Hi all,

Response to our meeting has been great; we now have over 70 people planning to attend. Individuals from Auburn University, Alabama A&M, the University of South Alabama, Jacksonville State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, Alabama Reptile Rescue Sanctuary, and the United States Geological Survey-among other organizations and institutions-will deliver some of over thirty scheduled presentations about research, conservation, and education/outreach efforts concerning Alabama’s amphibians and reptiles.

Missed out on our registration deadline? You can still register at the door (although it's too late for private lodging and meals). Send us an e-mail at to let us know your plan.

Hope to see you all this weekend.