Montane amphibian population monitoring

Montane amphibian population monitoring

This was the project that got me hooked on ecological research. As an undergraduate I spent all four summers assisting University of Maine PhD candidate, Luke Groff (now state herpetologist of Vermont), with his fieldwork. Each year, I led field crews  into the northern Appalachian mountains to study the environmental factors that lead to breeding site selection by amphibians with a  particular focus on wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). We spent all week backpacking to various alpine wetands scattered across western Maine. I trained technicians to identify every species of amphibian in Maine by site and sound. We luggedd 25 pound audio recorders in our packs to deploy at wetlands. Our survey methods included walking the edges of wetlands  with dipnets, snorkeling to count eggmasses, deploying minnow-traps, and listening for called. It was an excellent adventure, spending 5-days every week living and working in the back country provided no shortage of great stories.

Dr. Groff found some fascinating results from the data we collected. He showed that spotted salamander occupancy was encouraged by the current or former presence of beavers (Castor canadensis). The probability of wood frog occupancy was increased with the size of the wetland and a greater percentage of shallow areas. The results of this research conflicts with some previous studies shedding the light on the importance of considering interspecific regional habitat selection preferences.

For more check out the publication:

Groff, L.A., C.S. Loftin, and A.J.K. Calhoun. 2017. Predictors of breeding site occupancy by amphibians in montane landscapes. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 81(2):269-278.

2013 field crew at the summit of Mt. Katahdin, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.