Salamander Monitoring Project
In 2013 I will be conducting a study to investigate potential red-backed salamander populations at Fresh Pond Reservation. There are several goals for this monitoring project. The first is to determine whether salamanders are found at Fresh Pond and to learn more about their habitat preferences within the reservation. A second goal will be to compare potential salamander populations with populations at other sites including the Arnold Arboretum, Mount Auburn Cemetery, and woodlands throughout central Massachusetts. A third goal is to use this study as a way to teach the Friends of Fresh Pond and the general public about the ecological importance of red-backed salamanders. A final goal is to hopefully initiate a long-term monitoring project that will help to gauge the relative stability of this important organism at Fresh Pond Reservation.
On April 3rd,
2013 Elizabeth Wylde, Susan Coolidge, Deb Albenberg and I set out 24
- 12 inch by 18 inch untreated, rough-cut, eastern hemlock boards as
artificial cover objects (ACOs). The use of ACOs is a common method
used to monitor eastern red-backed salamanders as it limits the disturbance
to natural cover and it standardizes sampling efforts. Eight ACOs were
installed in three separate areas - the Woodland Restoration Project
area or "the corner", Lusitania Woods, and the Eastern Hemlock
stand in Kingsley Park. We set the ACOs along two parallel 90 foot transects
spaced 30 feet apart. Along each transect ACOs were placed 30 feet apart
resulting in four boards on each transect.
I will be monitoring
ACOs roughly every two to three weeks throughout the spring, summer,
and fall within 24 hours of a precipitation event. Red-backed salamanders
are much more common on the surface of the forest floor when it is moist.
When a red-backed salamander is encountered snout-to-vent length (SVL),
total length, and weight will be recorded. Analysis of body condition
can be accomplished by studying the relationship between SVL and weight
of individuals in a population. In addition, this study will look at
color morph ratios. Red-backed salamanders commonly occur in two color
morphs - the lead-backed or unstriped morph and the red-backed or striped
morph. Lead-backed morphs, which prefer warmer temperatures, are becoming
more common throughout their range as average temperatures increase.
Color morph ratios in Fresh Pond populations will be compared with populations
at the Arnold Arboretum and Mount Auburn Cemetery as well as populations
in central Massachusetts.
An email list
of all members of the Friends of Fresh Pond who might be interested
in joining me during monitoring will be compiled. I will send an email
to this list to let everyone know when I will be headed out. If you
are interested please send me an email at email@example.com.
Also, if anyone is interested in learning more about the ecology of
red-backed salamanders I will be presenting a talk entitled: Terrestrial
Salamanders - Wolves of the Forest Floor to the Friends of Fresh Pond
on Saturday May 4th from 1pm - 3pm at the Maynard Ecology Center. Immediately
following the talk we will visit the three study sites at Fresh Pond.
There will be an additional training session that will discuss the monitoring
project at Fresh Pond as well some time this spring.
If anyone is
interested in learning more about my past research on terrestrial salamanders
I have included two links to papers I have written. The first is an
article that was published in Arnoldia about a study I conducted at
the Arnold Arboretum on red-backed salamanders: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/sites/harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/files/publications/pdfs/Mathewson_Arnoldia_2007.pdf
The second is
a paper I had published in Northeastern Naturalist about a study of
red-backs at Harvard Forest: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/sites/harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/files/publications/pdfs/Mathewson_NENaturalist_2009.pdf
I would like
to thank Susan Coolidge for bringing the idea for this project to the
Cambridge Water Department, and for all her help with getting the project
initiated. I also want to thank Chip Norton, Manager of Watershed Protection,
for his tremendous support and enthusiasm for this project. Thanks also
to Elizabeth Wylde from the Friends of Fresh Pond for all her help getting
the project set up, and to Deb Albenberg for her help setting out the