Crow’s Nest: Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation

February 23, 2013

Last night Owen and I attended a lecture of the Berks County-based Mengel Natural History Society at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center, on the subject of Pennsylvania Herptiles (reptiles and amphibians). Marlin Corn from the Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC) discussed the conservation status of some rare species in our state. While many have declined, a few that were thought extirpated from the state have been rediscovered (but perhaps not in numbers that can sustain themselves).

MACHAC is working on a new citizen-science effort, the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptiles Atlas (PARS). Once it is online people will be able to submit their observations.

An interesting fact Marlin related is about a study in New Hampshire which measured the biomass of six species of salamanders (of which eastern red-backed salamanders comprised an overwhelming majority); it exceeded that for all birds present on the site during the nesting season and was similar to the biomass estimate for all small mammals (Burton and Likens, 1975a). If you have seen amphibian migrations on a “big night” in spring you would not be surprised by this statistic, as the forest around us comes alive with a teeming mass of migrating salamanders (for us, mainly yellow-spotted salamanders).

Speaking of which, it won’t be long now. Look out for the first night of rain in the 40’s in the next few weeks when salamanders leave upland woods and may be crossing roads to get to the wetlands where they breed. (Stay off the roads then, if you can, or offer to volunteer with local groups helping minimize the risk for amphibians crossing the roads.)

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 23, 2013.