Why your data matters

How are reptiles and amphibians doing in Columbia County? Can you help us find out? Your data will make a difference!

Different animals require different habitats to survive. A beautiful meadow for one snake might be too cool or too dry for another. Here in the Pacific Northwest each reptile and amphibian has its own preferences: some need older forests with downed wood, a few prefer clearings on the forest edge, several require fast and well-shaded streams. Certain species are generalists, and other species are very specialized.

Painted Turtles, for instance, are only found in slow-moving water bodies with access to the sun and safe places to lay their eggs.

We'd love to know all we can about what lives here. But Columbia County hasn't received much attention from wildlife biologists and there's little knowledge of how our wildlife is faring. Matt and I decided to rectify that issue and produce an all-encompassing study of Columbia County's "herps". These are the questions we're trying to answer:

  • For each of our 25-30 reptile and amphibian species, do they occur all across the county or only in more limited areas?
  • For those species that are not widespread, where in the county do they occur?

If we find that certain species are limited to specific habitats, we're hoping that our survey helps to determine how widespread their habitat is in Columbia County. Some habitats are limited naturally (Columbia County doesn't have mountains) and others have been limited by people (old growth forest has been cut down). Have these limits made it difficult for some species to survive? After a couple years of getting the best data we possibly can, we should to be able to describe which reptiles and amphibians are most vulnerable in the county and use our information to inform questions of what habitat matters most.

One of Columbia County's relatively rare waterfall habitats:

We're also looking to verify the existence of particular species for the first time. So far we have already documented the first records of Western Skinks and Columbia Torrent Salamanders in the county, both of which we published in Herpetological Review. We know of 25 species found here, 22 of which we have officially recorded and 3 which we only know from word-of-mouth. There are 4-5 other species that "may" be found in Columbia County but have not been seen yet. We'd love to to find them soon!

A hopeful side effect of this project is that we can build more people's passion for wildlife and natural spaces. The more that people are interested in local wildlife, the more they'll work to conserve it. To this end, we have not only initiated this iNaturalist project but are also assisting 4H leaders and high school teachers to educate their students about local wildlife and how they can survey for reptiles and amphibians.

For instance, students can learn that Western Red-backed Salamanders are very common and quite pretty, but you'll never know they're there unless you know where to look. This one was hiding under a rock at the side of a stream, others are found under logs in moist, shaded forest.

So that's basically the project. We're trying to:

  1. map the entire county so we can show which reptiles and amphibians are widespread and which are more habitat-limited
  2. prove basic occurrence records for those species which have not been officially recorded
  3. identify which habitats are most in danger and/or supporting the most rarely seen reptiles and amphibians
  4. get people more interested in wildlife and conservation

What's your role? Data! Data! Data!

Matt and I can't cover the entire county by ourselves. Every bit of information matters, whether it is the most common garter snake or the rarest giant salamander. In letting us know exactly where these species can be found, you'll be adding to the body of knowledge about how widespread our wildlife is.

Are you willing to look around for some frogs, salamanders, turtles, lizards, and snakes, and record whatever you find?

Thanks for taking a look!

Publicado por jonhakim jonhakim, 27 de febrero de 2020



Wonderful journal entry and photos! Thanks for posting this!

Publicado por sambiology hace alrededor de 1 año (Marca)

Thank you Sam! Too bad you're a long ways away. Doing everything I can to drum up some data here in our little corner but it isn't easy to find people who are engaged with the wildlife and motivated to record it.

Publicado por jonhakim hace alrededor de 1 año (Marca)

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Vida Silvestre es una entidad asociada a la Organización Mundial de Conservación