Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Elusive salamanders have role in developing new sampling models


Rare salamanders at a Georgia military base are the guinea pigs for Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers whose goal is to develop methods to better determine whether a species has vanished.

After not finding any flatwoods salamanders since 2001, Fort Stewart biologists were a bit concerned and were looking for a better survey method, said Mark Bevelhimer, an aquatic ecologist and member of ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division. A Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program project is helping in that area and addressing even greater challenges.

"Just because you don’t see any of the specific species you are looking for doesn’t mean they aren’t there," Bevelhimer said. "So for us, our task is to develop a method to make field sampling techniques more accurate and efficient. With that information, we can improve our models, and we should be able to do a better job of predicting the type and location of suitable habitats plus minimize unnecessary and time-consuming sampling."

Of more than 1,000 seasonal ponds at the 280,000-acre military facility in southeastern Georgia, 483 have been identified as potential candidates to support this particular salamander, technically known as Ambystoma cingulatum. Until April 21, however, none had been found over a stretch that spanned four years. Researchers noted that this was not totally unexpected because of a 100-year drought event that dried ponds and halted reproduction from 1999 through 2002. Since the first salamander was found six weeks ago, 36 more have been found in one pond, but none in 11 others that have supported them in the past.

In the United States, flatwoods salamanders are found only in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. The adults lay their eggs in wetland depressions in the late fall. With winter rains, the ponds rise and the eggs hatch in December, January and February. Larval development lasts through May. The larvae then undergo metamorphosis and leave the ponds as terrestrial juveniles. Juvenile and adult salamanders may move 400 or more yards from ponds and burrow in old crayfish holes and other crevices in soggy pine flatwoods.

This research is important to the military because better information about the presence or absence of salamanders can help installation natural resource managers apply effective conservation strategies for this species. Helping provide research tools that support conservation is one of the missions of the SERDP.

The three-year SERDP project, which began in January, takes advantage of some of the Department of Energy laboratory’s extensive capabilities. In addition to Bevelhimer’s contributions in the area of quantitative ecology, other ORNL researchers involved in the project are Neil Giffen, a wildlife biologist, and Bill Hargrove, a habitat modeler. Fort Stewart herpetologist Dirk Stevenson is also a key player in the project and is responsible for monitoring the rare reptile and amphibian populations on base.

Kara Ravenscroft, the project’s technician, actually found the first salamander, which she trapped. In subsequent sampling she has extended the date of recorded residence by larval flatwoods salamanders in Fort Stewart ponds by two to three weeks, which is well beyond the period when experts thought they normally leave ponds.

One of the project tasks consists of field experimentation to compare the larval capture efficiency of methods in use at Fort Stewart with methods used by other researchers for other salamander populations and with methods being developed during this project. These studies will be performed in coordination with the existing program, which includes sampling suspect ponds over the next six to 12 years.

Researchers also will compare sampling effectiveness of the different methods, looking closely at cost, and also use several sites to calculate the best approach to estimate juvenile abundance. Meanwhile, Hargrove and local biologists will gather physical data about the ponds and their watersheds combined with the presence or absence of salamanders to develop models to identify ponds most likely to support reproduction of the flatwoods salamander.

The habitat modeling takes into account numerous environmental and other variables and will be used to identify the relative importance of different factors for predicting the presence of salamanders. This process will provide valuable information for the management of flatwoods salamander habitat.

A final component of the project is technology transfer, as this research is expected to produce results and a tool useful to scientists and others working with rare species.

"In the third year of the project, we will be testing our model at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where flatwoods salamanders are also found," Bevelhimer said. "We expect that the methods we develop will be useful in flatwoods salamander conservation throughout the Southeast. More importantly, we are hopeful that these methods can be applied to monitoring efforts for a variety of rare species as part of the ongoing challenge faced by natural resource managers to balance resource use and resource preservation."

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>