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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Amphibian Monitoring & Education

A Spotted Salamander, awake at 12:45 a.m.
You wouldn’t think many people would be out walking at midnight on a Wednesday, but the amphibian crossing site at Shelburne Pond was busy with people escorting amphibians as they migrated.  A group of UVM students enrolled in a Herpetology course made careful counts of the critters they saw.  And a family moved from frog to frog, with parents watching carefully over their children, who excitedly announced each amphibian they found.

Jonan (age 6) escorts a Wood Frog
While the Amphibian Monitoring Program strives to collect data, this is only one of the program’s goals.  The other, equally (if not more) important goal is education.  This spectacle of nature is a phenomenon that goes overlooked by too many.  Every individual I have ever known who has witnessed this migration has been deeply moved by it.  The family out last night understood this profound, intrinsic value of connecting with nature in the most intimate way.  Only such a meaningful experience could justify kids staying up hours past their normal bedtime.  Pictures don’t do justice to the miracle of migration… it must be experienced in person to gain true appreciation for both the might and fragility of these creatures.  

Last night, not a single car passed in the 2 hours I monitored the roadway.  None-the-less, when crossings occur early, traffic can be moderate to heavy.  When this happens, volunteers serve a dual purpose.  Not only do they monitor and rescue amphibians, but they act as educators to all the passing motorists who take note of their presence (and hopefully the presence of amphibians, too!). 
The truth is that few people run over amphibians intentionally.  It is a lack of knowledge that fuels the road kill problem, and through our work with the AmphibianMonitoring Program, we hope to continue informing the public about our migrating amphibians.

A Blue-spotted X Jefferson Salamander (hybrid)

Ian (age 8) and Jonan (age 6) pose after a hard night's work!

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