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!