Friday, November 19, 2010

Alabama Amphibian Network reaches 2,000 student mark

A treefrog perches on a PVC treefrog shelter near a wetland at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center (photo courtesy Nick Bieser)

As of November 2010, over 2,000 students and other members of the public have participated in the Alabama Amphibian Network (AAN) at environmental education centers across Alabama. The AAN is a collaborative citizen science partnership between Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the University of Alabama, and seven environmental education centers across the state. The project has been made possible via funding from Legacy Partners in Environmental Education. The AAN was officially launched this summer.

Participants in the AAN are using coverboards and PVC treefrog shelters - two types of equipment used by herpetologists to sample amphibians in the field - to learn about amphibian ecology and gain hands-on experience with amphibians. EE partners in the network currently include McDowell Environmental Center, Jacksonville State University's Little River Canyon Field School, Turtle Point Science Center, the Alabama Wildlife Federation's Alabama Nature Center, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, the University of Alabama Arboretum, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Amphibians represent one of the planet's most threatened vertebrate groups, with up to one third of all species considered threatened with extinction by international conservation organizations. Another third of all amphibian species lack the basic scientific information necessary for determining their current status. The AAN is seeking to alleviate both of these problems in Alabama by increasing public awareness of amphibians and providing biologists with information on amphibians' distribution, ecology, and status across the state. Alabama is located in a world hotspot of amphibian diversity, making it a perfect location for the project.

Besides the 2,000 people already exposed to amphibians by the project, the AAN has also yielded a potentially new scientific discovery. Participating staff at Camp McDowell have observed unique, undocumented behavior in the Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus), one of Alabama's most common amphibian residents. This observation is currently being prepared for publication.

Be sure to stay abreast of ongoing developments in the Alabama Amphibian Network by checking out the ALAPARC blog and the AAN website, which will be updated soon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Live Blogging our Meeting

We've completed the submitted talks for the year and have been caught up on all the work people have been conducting in the last year. We also heard Sean Graham's seminar on the outcomes of the ALAPARC hellbender initiative. Unfortunately, all the surveys of the last few years have failed to produce a single hellbender. Sean suggested although there may be a couple old individuals left in the state, it's unlikely the species has much of a future. Wally Smith also updated us on the education and outreach efforts our chapter has been involved in, we suggest you check out our website for more information.
Chris Thawley is now describing how anyone can collect information that will help researchers study the genetic make-up of amphibians and reptiles.

Saturday AM at the ALAPARC Meeting

We kick off our agenda shortly with a talk by Ken Marion at UAB about how the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has affected marine reptiles and we'll be hearing later about a dozen other talks about amphibian and reptile conservation in the state. Last night we enjoyed libations during our poster session and this morning we are waking up with coffee provided by Higher Ground Roasters. Hopefully, you're here, everybody else is.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Live Blogging Our Meeting

Hi all,

We will periodically update you with the progress for our meeting. Our panel discussion is underway and we're currently hearing insights as to how the general public and landowners may react should the Gopher Tortoise be federally protected. Joe McGlincy of Southern Forestry Consultants, Inc., is describing how private landowners possess much of the remaining tortoise habitat in Alabama and it's important to communicate with them how to effectively conserve the species while preserving their ability to profit from their land.
Jessica Homyack of Weyerhaeuser is reinforcing the importance of private lands, 84% of appropriate tortoise habitat in the range where the species is proposed for listing is on private property.

There's still time for you to make it down!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Day Left to Register For Our Meeting!

Don't miss this year's meeting in Andalusia, Alabama. The registration deadline is tomorrow. Check out our website for registration instructions and this year's program!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ALAPARC Press Release: Alabama Amphibian Network officially launched

Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Aug. 17, 2010)—Who knew a little bit of plywood and PVC pipe could help unlock the secrets of Alabama’s amphibious underworld?

The University of Alabama recently launched a project that spans seven nature centers across the state and will hopefully help scientists and the public alike develop a better appreciation for the state’s resident amphibians.

Dubbed the Alabama Amphibian Network, the project was made possible through a $2,000 grant the university received last June from Legacy Partners in Environmental Education.

Legacy is an organization dedicated to providing environmental education programs for Alabama residents. Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is an acting partner with the network, having provided an online home for the project, aiding in communication between the university, Legacy, and participating nature centers, and hosting data collected from the project.

The project involves installing coverboards (2x4-foot pieces of plywood) and PVC tree frog shelters, both of which mimic amphibians’ natural habitats, at each of the environmental education centers, said Wally Smith, a University of Alabama PhD candidate coordinating the project.

“These environmental education centers have been chosen for the network due to their location across habitat types from the mountains to the coast, their ability to reach students from all demographic groups, and their excellent track records of environmental education,” said Smith.

Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center near Birmingham, Little River Canyon Field School near Ft. Payne, the Alabama Wildlife Federation's Alabama Nature Center at Lanark in Millbrook, the University of Alabama Arboretum in Tuscaloosa, Turtle Point Science Center in Escambia County, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are all participating in the project.

Smith said the nature centers can use the equipment in educational programs to supplement curriculum involving amphibians and forest/wetland ecology.

“The educators get a valuable education tool out of the project that improves science literacy, while we, as scientists, get much-needed information that improves amphibian conservation,” he said. “It's a win-win situation.”

Nick Bieser, conservation land manager with Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, said the center decided to partner with the University of Alabama to help further conservation and environmental education.

“This project will hopefully help show the general public that amphibians are an important part of the ecosystem and deserve the same protection as other animals,” said Bieser. “By providing the public a chance to see these animals up close and learn what kinds may be living in their backyard, favorite fishing spot, or nature preserve, we hope they will have more interest in helping to protect them.”

So far, Bieser said the coverboards have yielded only a few insects, but as time progresses, he expects that will change.

“We expect to get slimy, zigzag, spotted, and red salamanders as well as spring peepers, gray tree frogs, and green tree frogs,” he said.

The center plans to incorporate the coverboards and PVC shelters into its “Wetland Explorers” program.

Bieser said the program allows children to use dip nets to catch tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, and other aquatic creatures.

“We will incorporate the coverboards and PVC shelters and show the children the adult stages of some of the amphibians in the wetlands and talk about their life cycles,” he said. “These shelters will also likely be used in our weekend and night programs when we take groups out to the wetland for night or frog call hikes.”

Smith said programs such as this one can help people learn to better appreciate a world they are often unaware exists.

“A lack of public awareness about amphibians is a fundamental problem in Alabama when it comes to conserving our wildlife and natural heritage, and amphibians are one group of animals that is taking a big hit within our state's borders,” he said. “The AAN attacks this problem head-on by exposing what we hope will be thousands of Alabamians to the beautiful and fascinating world of frogs and salamanders that lives all around us.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Indigo Reintroduction as of 7/4/2010

Independence Day and the Indigos seem to know it. Seventeen days since their day of independence and all are alive and none have disappeared breaking several peoples predictions(you know who you are) and beating the odds on several friendly wagers. They have all set up their own territories. Most have picked an old armadillo or gopher tortoise burrow as their retreat from the south Alabama heat. One found its way into the stump of an old longleaf pine long since rotted away leaving only the standing heartwood. I can't figure out how it got in there(no obvious hole around the stump) but it is certainly in there. Tracking snakes is amazing. Without radio telemetry one would never know they were standing on top of a 4ft long snake! They seem to be coming out and hunting/basking in the early mornings and late afternoons. Then going back to their same hole during the heat of the day. Today almost half of the snakes were seen out and about, yet most were within an easy slither from their refuge. We haven't seen any more feeding since the first week although several had bulging bellies. Things are looking positive for the future of the Indigo in south Alabama! Lets hope that the trend continues!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gopher Tortoise Council Meeting Details

The Gopher Tortoise Council, ALAPARC's partner in reptile conservation, has announced the details of their upcoming meeting:

Please join us October 7-10, 2010 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama for the 32nd Annual Gopher Tortoise Council Meeting.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS AUGUST 20th (link to registration below). Abstract submission is now also open.

Preliminary Agenda:

Thursday, October 7: GTC Business Meeting

Friday, October 8: Special Alabama Session and Panel Discussion Regarding the Potential Implications of a Range-wide Federal Listing

Friday will kick off with a keynote presentation by Craig Guyer (Auburn
University) followed by presentations highlighting tortoise and longleaf pine research and conservation in Alabama. In the afternoon, a panel discussion will convene to discuss how a federal listing will influence various stakeholders. A question and answer session will allow the audience to participate.

Saturday, October 9: Ecology and Habitat Conservation and Ray Ashton Tribute

Conference sessions will focus on traditional meeting topics, such as gopher tortoise ecology, commensal species ecology, and upland habitat conservation efforts. On Saturday afternoon, we will remember a gopher tortoise conservation pioneer.

Hotel: This year's meeting will be held at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama. Lodging is included in registration packages (link below).

Saturday Evening Social: Join us Saturday night on-site for beverages and the musical stylings of Olin Howlin, an Auburn favorite.

We were able to keep costs for our meeting low by creating registration packages, please select one that best fits your schedule. All packages include Gopher Tortoise Council Meeting Registration (Use PayPal to pay, you may do so below the package descriptions). Send an e-mail to with questions.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Indigo Reintroduction as of 6/23/2010

Indigo Snake update 6/23/10

The first week of tracking the released Indigo Snakes brought some exciting events. The first snake tracked on the day after the release was found eating a Copperhead. This confirmed a prediction of mine, that these venomous snakes would play a role in the diet of the Indigo snakes! The event was captured on HI DEF video by the Discovering Alabama team so be looking for the footage on the show about the Indigo Snake repatriation program. Another was seen devouring a Gray Rat Snake. One of the snakes was found to be 20-30 ft. up in trees with thick brush and vines twice. The best news is that after one week all the snakes are accounted for, and all seem to be doing well. They appear to be adjusting to the wild just fine. Stay tuned to new posts for the latest updates on what the snakes are doing in the wild.

Indigo Snake Updates From the Field

You've likely already heard a lot about the recent indigo snake reintroduction project in Conecuh National Forest (if not, click here). But here's something you don't know: those tasked with monitoring the released snakes have agreed to provide news on how and what the snakes are doing via this blog! Stay tuned for updates from the field from Jimmy and Sierra Stiles.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Volunteer info for Alabama oil spill efforts

With oil beginning to wash ashore on Alabama's coasts, more and more individuals are attempting to find info on how to volunteer. This blog post will attempt to condense links of several organizations within the state involved in coordinating volunteer efforts or information on efforts related to the spill. One of ALAPARC's partner organizations, The Nature Conservancy, has designed a webpage where those interested can view detailed information on current and planned efforts, as well as a link for registering to volunteer. In addition, the Alabama Coastal Foundation and Alabama Wildlife Federation have links on their sites where volunteers can register and view info on efforts on the Alabama coast. Lastly, the governor's office has set up a webpage through its Office of Community Initiatives that lists several opportunities and avenues for those wishing to volunteer.

This list is but a small sampling of opportunities available through both nonprofits local to Alabama and more broad organizations, such as the Audubon Society, that are focusing efforts across the entire Gulf region. Both unpaid volunteer opportunities and paid positions are available through different groups depending on background and training. Restoration efforts will likely continue long after initial attention on the spill declines, so be sure to keep monitoring these outlets and others if you have interests in helping with volunteer efforts. Also feel free to post other opportunities with groups in the state in the comments below this post, if you know of them. Just remember to make sure that any time or money you choose to donate to the spill recovery is going through a reputable organization such as those listed above.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Calling all Flickr users!

Do you have a Flickr account and have photos of herps, herp habitat, or herpers from around Alabama? ALAPARC now has a group and photo pool on Flickr where you can upload your herp-related photos from around the state. You can view the group here and click "Join this Group" to join and begin uploading your photos. Feel free to sign up, contribute photos and even participate in online discussions. Tell your friends!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ruffner Mountain joins Alabama Amphibian Network

ALAPARC would like to welcome Ruffner Mountain Nature Center to the Alabama Amphibian Network! Ruffner Mountain, located just east of downtown Birmingham, is one of the state's most unique nature centers, complete with a variety of habitats including an abandoned quarry on the 1,011 acres surrounding the mountain's slopes and summit. The AAN site for Ruffner Mountain will be located at one of the nature center's unique and biodiverse wetlands (pictured above), where EE center staff will be using the network's tools in their ongoing educational programs. Ruffner Mountain will be a vital link in the AAN due to its unique location, scope of users, and excellent staff/educational programs.

The Alabama Amphibian Network is a collaborative outreach partnership and citizen science effort ongoing at seven environmental education centers across Alabama, being administered by the University of Alabama and ALAPARC, with funding graciously provided by Legacy Partners in Environmental Education.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amphibians and Reptiles of Alabama's National Forests

Do you spend any time hiking, camping, or fishing within Alabama's National Forests, such as Talladega, Bankhead, Tuskegee or Conecuh? If so, you may have come across one of many species of amphibians and reptiles that may be found within their borders. Due to the diversity of habitats protected in these areas, each forest harbors a unique assemblage of animals.

Now, thanks to Sean Graham and others, there are now amphibian and reptile checklists for each National Forest in Alabama. Print them out next time you're headed out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congratulations to ALAPARC's Secretary, Dr. Bill Sutton

ALAPARC is proud to announce that Bill Sutton obtained his Ph.D. this week from Alabama A&M University. Congratulations to Bill and we'll all be looking forward to reading about how forest management practices have influenced the amphibian and reptile populations of Bankhead National Forest, Alabama.

Opp Rodeo in National News

If you're from Alabama, you're likely familiar with its sole rattlesnake rodeo, which attracts thousands to Opp each year. Although the number of rattlesnakes harvested for Opp is small compared the two roundups in Georgia, it is still a source of concern for conservation biologists. Dr. Bruce Means recently published an article describing long term trends observed among rattlesnakes and linked these patterns to the roundups. You can download a pdf of the article here. Armed with this knowledge, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned Georgia to investigate the prevalence of tortoise burrow gassing and also asking the Governor to outlaw roundups.

The national news has picked up the story (focusing on Opp), and a small sampling of the dozens of news outlets that ran it can be found below:

CBS News
The Associated Press

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alabama Amphibian Network going online!

Over the past few weeks, several ALAPARCers have been helping the University of Alabama install coverboards and other sampling equipment at environmental education (EE) centers across the state. Being deemed the "Alabama Amphibian Network," these EE centers will be taking part in a statewide citizen science project aimed at both increasing public awareness of amphibians/science literacy and updating our scientific knowledge of amphibians across Alabama. Below are several photos from the site installations, as well as a description of the project:

What it is: The AAN is a first-of-its-kind project in the South that uses established EE centers as long-term monitoring and educational sites to further amphibian outreach goals across the entire state. Centers have been chosen for the network that reach multiple demographic groups (rural, urban, etc.), as well as those cover the full spectum of Alabama's habitat diversity, from the mountains to the Gulf. Sites will include the bottom of a sandstone canyon in northwest Alabama, a second-growth woodlot in suburban Tuscaloosa, and isolated wetlands near Perdido Bay - just to name a few. The AAN is being supervised through the University of Alabama and ALAPARC and is being very graciously funded by Legacy, Inc.. The photo below is of one of the network's sites: a canyon harboring (among other species) green salamanders at Camp McDowell:

How it works: EE centers are being provided with coverboard arrays, PVC treefrog shelters, field guides, and curriculum to be used in herp education programs. EE center personnel use these sampling arrays to provide students with hands-on experience of amphibians in their native habitat. EE centers also record data from individuals collected in the arrays, thus involving students and the greater community in active scientific research.

What it will do: The AAN will increase public awareness of amphibians among Alabama's citizenry, providing us with a vital tool for combating habitat destruction: an educated base. Data from the AAN will also be used to update distributions and knowledge on population trends of amphibian species in the state over the long term.

What you can do: Check the AAN website for updates on the project's progress, as well as opportunities for personal involvement. Also feel free to provide comments and feedback for the project here as more information is released - we value your input! We hope that our EE partners will become long-term educational partners with ALAPARC, as well!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In herp-related news from the Southeast....

(Photo by Kevin Enge, via USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced in a "90-day finding" today that the Striped Newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) may warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act, a finding that comes after an initial review of a proposal for listing of the species for federal protection. The next step in this process will be a thorough review of the species' conservation status, which will then determine whether or not it can be officially proposed for listing under the ESA. In a nutshell, this finding acts as the catalyst for the initation of long process of review and proposals for listing. In the meantime, the USFWS is soliciting scientific and commercial info on the striped newt in order to go forward with its status review (see the press release here for more info).

For a bit of background info, the striped newt is a small Coastal Plain endemic that is specialized for survival in longleaf-pine dominated habitats with small, shallow, temporary ponds - two types of habitat that have greatly disappeared from the Southeast in recent decades.

(h/t Katie Dunn for the press release)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First "Hooray for Herps!" Teacher Workshop Scheduled

ALAPARC is proud to announce the inaugural event for the "Hooray for Herps!" teacher workshop series, to be held March 13, 2010 at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center in Andalusia, AL. There will be a total of six workshops in the "Hooray for Herps!" series, being spearheaded by the Environmental Education Association of Alabama (EEAA) in partnership with Legacy Partners in Environmental Education and ALAPARC.

This first workshop, which starts at 9:00 am and ends at 2:30 pm, includes content information and current research in the region from a Herpetologist, hands-on experience with live animals, and classroom activities relating to the animals, habitat and conservation. Lunch will be provided for all workshop participants. After the workshop, teachers may choose to participate in the optional field trip looking for these incredible animals.

Each teacher will receive Learning through Legacy: Alabama's Environmental Education Guide for their grade level, Legacy’s WaterSource Book, Peterson’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Hands-on Herpetology, and many posters from Legacy and wildlife organizations. A CD with resources-including the PowerPoint presentation of Reptiles and Amphibians in Alabama, and a CD of Alabama Frog and Toad calls.

For more information and registration, see the ALAPARC or EEAA websites.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gopher Frog Season

February is the usual beginning of the gopher frog breeding season in Alabama, although recent warm January rains might have brought the frogs out a bit early this year. For those interested in participating in the Gopher Frog Initiative, instructions are posted here. Contact Mark Bailey for Google Earth kmz placemarks for historic gopher frog sites near you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Alabama Hellbender Initiative UPDATE

New news from the Alabama HellbenderInitiative!

Remember, the first phase of the initiative is to accumulate recent, unverified reports of hellbenders found in Alabama, as well as unverified sight records, to guide our surveys for the coming year. For a full description of the Alabama Hellender Initiative, see the ALAPARC website:

Due mostly to the efforts of ALAPARC members Eric Soerhen and George Cline, we rounded up three recent hellbender records for which we have documentation. Eric reached out to aquatic ecologists and malacologists who do surveys in north Alabama, and one of them had a photograph of a hellbender found alive in Madison County in 1999.

George Cline was contacted by folks at the Dismals Canyon preserve in 2006, who had found a dead hellbender in the canyon. We have a photo of this animal, although unfortunately at this time we have been unable to get any of the specifics about when and where in the canyon it was collected.

Therefore, the 2004 Lauderdale County specimen we received from Tom Haggerty of the University of North Alabama gets the distinction of being the most recent hellbender documented in Alabama. This specimen was also found dead.

All of these vouchers (two photo vouchers and the Lauderdale County specimen) are now secure in the Auburn University Herpetological Collections.

Although it is a bit disconcerting that the latest two hellbenders encountered in Alabama were found dead, this at least gives the project hope that we will find hellbenders in the state (up until now, the most recent hellbender known was found in 1990!). This also certainly increases the chances that we will find a healthy population. Blog readers, be sure to send along any information on recent hellbenders encountered in Alabama to

The next phase of the initiative is set to begin this spring. We have applied for the Jennifer Elwood hellbender research grant, and hope to receive funds for the construction of traps and educational materials to be distributed in north Alabama bait shops and fishing spots. Survey crews are forming and gearing up, with UNA scientists interested in covering the nice streams north of their base of operations, Bill Sutton and friends covering the Huntsville area, Jimmy and Sierra Stiles hitting streams throughout N. Alabama, Eric Soerhen covering a nice shoal he has a good feeling about, and the Auburn group, headed by Sean Graham, heading to Dismals Canyon and the Bear Creek drainage.

Stay tuned for the spring results!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here's Your Chance

Interested in the conservation of Alabama's amphibians and reptiles? Want to organize a meeting, guide the direction of and head up a statewide network of motivated individuals? Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is looking for individuals to become future co-chairs. In the last year, we established ALAPARC and got the ball rolling; now it's time for others to step and keep the momentum going. We will not succeed and persist unless we have motivated and enthusiastic volunteers. You don't need a resume, you need a passion. Does this sound like you?

Have questions? Let us know at ALAPARC needs you! Know of someone else that fits the bill? Nominate them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The GTC is coming to Alabama

Hi all,

As co-chair of The Gopher Tortoise Council (GTC), my responsibility this year was to plan the annual meeting and I'm proud to bring it to Alabama in 2010. The meeting will be held October 7-10th at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama. This is a great opportunity for ALAPARC members to learn more about a regional conservation organization that's been working to protect the gopher tortoise and its habitats for over thirty years. Registration and other information will be provided in the coming months over at the GTC website but for now, mark the data on your calendars.

Dave Steen

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Waterdog Hunt in Locust River on 1/23

Join us! Black Warrior Waterdog Hunt – January 23

Debra Gordon-Hellman
Friends of the Locust Fork River

Biologist Scott Atkins, with the Watchdog Committee of Friends of the Locust Fork River (FLFR), will lead a hunt for the elusive, unusual waterdog on Saturday January 23, 2010 in Blount County, Alabama. The purpose of the hunt is to provide documentation that the waterdog still exists in the Locust Fork River and nearby tributaries (as incidental reports assert). Documentation of this species (a proposed candidate for federal listing) as well as other protected species (e.g. flattened musk turtle) is critical, as we are attempting to understand how the proposed Rosa Mine development may influence Alabama’s rare reptiles.

For further information about our efforts, the permit, maps, etc, click here.
To attend the waterdog hunt, e-mail

Friday, January 15, 2010

Save The Date!

Here we go again; it's time to start planning for our annual meeting. Missed our 2009 meeting? Don't make the same mistake again and mark your calendars for November 5-7th at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Andalusia, Alabama.

Expect more great talks about the conservation of Alabama's amphibians and reptiles as well as some new features, including debates and the debut of special award session to commemorate pioneer(s) in Alabama herpetology.

We will also hear about how our initiatives have progressed over the last year and hopefully hear from some of you about additional conservation efforts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ALAPARC Newsletter Submissions Wanted

Got something to say about amphibian and reptile conservation in the Alabama? Submit your news or other items to with "Newsletter Submission" in the subject line. ALAPARC's newsletter editors will get back to you shortly if there are any questions.

This is a great opportunity to let others in Alabama know about important developments in the state.

Are you on ALAPARC's e-mail list? If not, send an e-mail to with "join" in the subject line.

We hope to hear from you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Forever Wild in Alabama

Check out the blog of ALAPARC's Conservation Czar by clicking here.

At this site Mark Bailey discusses the future of one of Alabama's most important conservation programs, and its possible future.