Yellow-Spotted Salamander photo: Nancy Coddington
When the spring temperatures begin to rise and the snow recedes, the first warm rainy night of spring brings a chorus of spring peepers, wood frogs and mole salamanders. The spring migration happens sometime between mid March and April when evening temperatures rise above 40ºF as the amphibians move from the upland wooded areas to vernal pools and ponds to find suitable mates. Spotted salamanders are usually a secretive critter living under rocks, in seeps or underground in small damp burrows, so this is the night to be able to see them in large numbers.
This migration of yellow-spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, is a right of passage for some Binghamton University students. Devin DiGiacopo is a third year Phd student in Jessica Hua’s lab at Binghamton University and is researching how road salt affects spotted salamanders. Devin weighed, measured and counted several spotted salamanders before they crossed the Connector Road that runs through the nature preserve. This is the first year the road has been open and maintained through the winter season and Hua’s lab is curious if the salt applied to the road will have any effect on amphibians living in the preserve since the road has been previously left untreated during the winter months. DiGiacopo washed the salamanders in a water solution before they crossed the road and then patiently waited for the 6 inch amphibians to make their way across the two lane road. Once on the other side he submersed them in another water bath collecting any salt residual that might have been picked up by the salamander while crossing the road. DiGiacopo will analyze the water solution for conductivity in the lab determining how much salt, if any, the salamander picked up while crossing the now treated road. These results will help get a snapshot of how road salt can effect a watershed and the amphibians living in it.