Science Pub BING kicks off the first in a series of science talks designed to engage learners of all ages and interests. This monthly forum offers a platform to share research and current science topics with our community. What does booming population growth mean for the frogs, newts, and salamanders living among us — and what can we do to help them thrive? Guest speaker Dr. Jessica Hua of Binghamton University will share her research on how human pressures are affecting amphibians. She will be joined by Grascen Shidemantle, Vanessa Wuerther, Nick Buss and Devin DiGiacopo. Dr. Hua is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences who oversees a lab of talented students studying the effects of humans on aquatic ecosystems.
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. https://youtu.be/X9b02qycESc
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.
Frogs across the United States are showing up with something very odd- extra legs. Scientists have been studying these frogs to find out what is causing this strange phenomenon. They have identified the parasite (Ribeiroia ondatrae) infection linked to amphibian malformations in the western United States:
The hellbender is North America’s largest amphibian. (Dave Harp)
According to the Bay Journal, the Eastern Hellbender won’t win any beauty contests. It’s picked up such unflattering nicknames as “snot otter” and “old lasagna sides.”
But because the rarely seen giant salamander can only live in the most pristine of streams, a small group of Pennsylvania high school students thinks Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis should be named the official state amphibian, as a sort of clean water mascot. By calling attention to the existence — and decline —of hellbenders, the students hope to foster awareness in Pennsylvania of the need to restore the health of its rivers and streams.
“We want hellbenders to become a household name,” said River Sferlazza, 16, a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Student Leadership Council in Pennsylvania. “If it’s the state amphibian, hellbenders will become harder for people to forget.”
The student leadership council is an experiential learning program for young advocates for clean water in the Bay watershed.