Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amphibian Awareness Month’

Water Quality and Amphibians

Friday, March 27th, 2015
A Closer Look into the Relationship between Amphibians and Their Habitats

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Kelly Triece, Wildlife Biologist

Wood Frog Eggs © Kelly Triece

Wood Frog Eggs © Kelly Triece

Amphibians are unique group in the animal kingdom, they have porous skin! This permeable skin allows water and air to pass directly pass into their body without filtering through their stomach.

 
While their permeable skin and soft eggs give amphibians an advantage to take in more oxygen, it also makes them more susceptible to pollutants. Amphibians therefore can serve as “canaries in the coal mine” for water quality. Biologists throughout the world are concerned about the health of amphibians because their health can be linked to the health of the environment they live in.

 

Water pollutants, such as, road salts, pesticides, metals and other sources of runoff from agriculture and cities can have negative effects on overall health and reproduction of these critters. Water quality degradation has been linked to physical malformations in amphibians and may also reduce their ability to fight off pathogens, leading to reduced reproduction and mortality. These issues linked with water quality and amphibians may also have a larger implication of the health of the ecosystem, including human health.

 
Therefore, it is important that populations of amphibians and other wildlife are carefully monitored and protected. In order to protect our water quality in and around our homes it is important to limit sidewalk salts, garden fertilizers and pesticides as much as possible. Make sure to follow label instructions and application rates. Amphibians are also beneficial as they eat insects, including agricultural pests and serve as food to other wildlife. They have also been an important role in research and medicine. Each day, consider taking small steps in your own house to help the amphibians that call the Garden State home.

 

Learn more:

 

Kelly Triece is a Wildlife Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

 

Road Closed: Salamander Crossing

Friday, March 20th, 2015
Road Closures Help Amphibians Migrate to Vernal Pools to Breed

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Yellow Spotted Salamander © Lindsay McNamara

Yellow Spotted Salamander © Lindsay McNamara

 

On the night of March 14, Conserve Wildlife Foundation Communications Coordinator Lindsay McNamara attended the first closure of Beekman Road this season. Beekman Road, in East Brunswick, New Jersey, is closed to traffic about two or three nights for six to twelve hours each spring by Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (Friends of EBEC). Friends of EBEC organizes these road closures to maintain local biodiversity.

 

In the woods on either side of Beekman Road, vernal pool habitat exists. Vernal pools are temporary woodland ponds that fill with water during the winter and spring and dry out in the summer. These vernal pools are extremely important for a number of amphibians in the area. Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, green frogs, spring peepers, Fowlers toads and chorus frogs all rely on the vernal pools for breeding.

 

Some amphibians, like spotted salamanders and wood frogs are entirely dependent on the vernal pools for breeding. They leave their winter hibernation spots in upland forests and migrate (often in large groups) to the vernal pools. Research suggests that these species follow the same migratory paths each year, often traveling distances of as much as 1,000 feet from their hibernation spots.

 

At the vernal pool, mating occurs, eggs are deposited by the females, and the adults leave the habitat and venture to the surrounding woods. The adults spend their summer in these wooded areas before slowly retreating back to their winter hibernation areas, and the natural cycle begins again.

 

Unfortunately, the migrating amphibians need to cross Beekman Road to get from their hibernating spots to their vernal pool breeding grounds. Road kills during this journey significantly reduce salamander and frog populations and can lead to local extinctions at breeding ponds.

 

Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission has worked together with a number of partners to close Beekman Road to traffic during nights when amphibian migration is extremely likely. These road closures help protect migrating salamanders and frogs as they move across Beekman Road to their breeding vernal pools.

 

Friends of EBEC consider a number of variables before they decided to close the road. A wide range of factors trigger salamander migration including the amount and timing of rainfall, the date, the temperature of the air, the temperature of the ground, the availability of open water on the vernal pools, the depth the salamanders are migrating, soil moisture and many others. Interestingly, studies have shown that males typically migrate first and arrive at the vernal pools before the females. It seems females need a higher average air temperature to stimulate their movement than the males.

 

Volunteers are encouraged to come on these rainy nights to help the amphibians cross the road. Bring your friends, your family and don’t forget a flashlight, to the next road closure of the season! Updates are posted on the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission’s blog.

 

These road closures are a great way to protect local biodiversity and educate New Jersey residents about wildlife in their state. Conserve Wildlife Foundation, in partnership with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, lead a number of Amphibian Crossing volunteer programs across New Jersey. Join us!

 

Learn more:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Ranavirus Impacting New Jersey Amphibians

Friday, March 20th, 2015
Emerging Disease Known to Affect Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Kelly Triece, Wildlife Biologist

Picture1

Wood frog and egg masses at a vernal pool in northern New Jersey © Kelly Triece

 

While human diseases such as Ebola and the zombie apocalypse virus have made recent headlines in the news and on our TV screens, there is a virus that is also affecting our local amphibian population. This emerging disease known as Ranavirus, has become increasingly common in the U.S., including New Jersey.

 

This virus has been known to affect amphibians, reptiles and fish. It is of great concern because it can kill nearly 100% of amphibian larvae (tadpoles) within just a few days once a population is infected. Ranavirus causes skin ulcerations and organ hemorrhaging, and is especially threatening to larvae, specifically wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). Transmission of the disease can be spread direct contact, waterborne exposure, contaminated soil, and ingestion of infected tissues.

 

While the virus has been known to cause major die-offs all over the world, little information on the timing, extent, and frequency of the disease outbreaks is known in the Mid-Atlantic U.S.. In order to gain more information, a multi-state survey has been underway since 2013. The project is led by Scott Smith of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff biologists are doing a large amount of New Jersey’s field surveillance with support from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP).

Netting tadpoles ©MacKenzie Hall

Netting tadpoles ©MacKenzie Hall

As part of this project, in 2013, breeding ponds throughout the New Jersey were sampled for prevalence of Ranavirus. Thirty larvae from each study pond were captured by dip net, physically examined, euthanized, and preserved for screening and other analyses at the labs of Montclair State University and/or the National Wildlife Health Center. Results determined that about half of these ponds tested positive for Ranavirus.

 

In 2014, Ranavirus-positive sites were re-sampled for presence of the disease. At about 25% of the sites, disease symptoms and/or dead tadpoles were found, though no mass die-offs were observed. Investigations are still ongoing to further determine the impact of Ranavirus on amphibian populations as well as potential environmental factors that may be associated with the disease.

 

Learn more:

 

Kelly Triece is a Wildlife Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

New Jersey’s Elusive and Endangered “Tiger”

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Studying the New Jersey Endangered Eastern Tiger Salamander

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager

TS egg mass @ Pat Sutton

Tiger Salamander egg mass @ Pat Sutton

This week, Conserve Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and dedicated trained volunteers surveyed a known Eastern Tiger Salamander breeding vernal pool complex. Tiger Salamanders emerge from their underground burrows in the early winter to breed and lay egg masses in the pools. By March, the adults have returned to their burrows.

 

Biologists and volunteers go out to pools during the winter months to survey for egg masses to determine if the pools are being used by Tiger Salamanders. The cold winter made getting out to pools difficult due to the ice cover, so now that it is warming up we hoped to still be able to find egg masses that hadn’t yet hatched.

Surveying for TS egg masses

Surveying for Tiger Salamander egg masses

 

One hundred sixty egg masses were found in the largest pool, some the of eggs had already hatched but others were still intact. Tiger Salamander larvae was seen along with the larvae of the Marbled Salamander. Vernal pools are breeding grounds for many species which is why it is so important to protect them.

 

Marbled Salamander larvae @ Pat Sutton

Marbled Salamander larvae @ Pat Sutton

 

In New Jersey, there are only 15 known Tiger Salamander breeding pools in the southern most part of the state. Tiger Salamanders themselves are targeted by collectors for the pet trade which is why their breeding locations are kept a secret. Their habitat is declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation, development, pollution, changes in hydrology, and climate change.

 

To see what biologists are doing to protect them visit:

Larissa Smith is a Wildlife Biologist and the Volunteer Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Jersey’s Newest Frog: The “Chuckling” Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
“Chucks” and Occasional Groans of New Species Caught on Video by Former CWF Biologist

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Remember back in late October of 2014 when word quickly spread about a new frog species in New Jersey? The Atlantic Coast leopard frog is mint-gray to light olive green with medium to dark spots. The frog has been found along the Delaware River and Bayshore, along Atlantic Ocean coastline, in the Meadowlands and on Staten Island.

 

Did you know this Jersey frog groans and makes cough-like sounds or “chucks” rather than typical croaking sounds? Listen closely while you watch the video, the sounds originally caught on film by former Conserve Wildlife Foundation biologist Brian Zarate, below to hear the Atlantic Coast leopard frog’s distinctive call:

 

 

Although other leopard frog species, like the southern leopard frog and northern leopard frog, have been recognized and found in New Jersey’s wetlands for some time, researchers only recently gained the ability to use technology such as DNA and digital bioacoustic analysis to present thorough evidence that the Atlantic Coast leopard frog was a unique species.

 

In March 2003, CWF Biologist Brian Zarate and other scientists volunteered to survey salamanders at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, New Jersey. As the biologists gathered in the parking lot, they heard an unfamiliar sounding frog. The group captured the frog and took photos, reasoning that it wasn’t the common southern leopard frog, and that might be a northern leopard frog released into the wild.

 

Zarate, now a zoologist with the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, moved on to other projects, but in 2007 he checked in on the strange frogs. He heard them near the same Great Swamp parking lot. He posted a video of the frog on YouTube.

 

Four years later, the group returned to Great Swamp, and found the strange frog there and in several other places too. Through the partnership of Zarate, Jeremy Feinberg, a Rutgers doctoral candidate, and Eric Kiviat, a collaborator with Hudsonia Ltd., and the implementation of new technology, it was proven that the strange frog was indeed a different species of leopard frog, the Atlantic Coast leopard frog.

 

Starting this spring, Endangered & Nongame Species Program biologists, including Zarate, will begin a two-year project mapping the potential range of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog. Biologists and volunteers alike will comb New Jersey’s wetlands in search of evidence of the frog and collect data on its habitat preferences.

 

Looking to report a possible sighting of an Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog? Contact Brian Zarate at brian.zarate@dep.state.nj.us.

 

Learn more:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

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