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Students Survey Amphibians, Reptiles on Little Bear Creek

Wading through a cool creek and turning over rocks and logs in search of frogs, toads, turtles and salamanders is many a child’s favorite way to pass a sultry summer afternoon.

Some Pennsylvania College of Technology students also got to enjoy that experience recently on Little Bear Creek in Plunketts Creek Township, gaining extra credit for a biology class and aiding an important conservation project in the process.

The students, led by Dr. Carol J. Kafer, associate professor of biology at Penn College, canvassed the creek for reptiles and amphibians as volunteers for the Pennsylvania Herpetological Atlas Project, a statewide initiative sponsored by the Wild Resource Conservation Fund and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The six-year project, directed by Dr. Arthur C. Hulse of Indiana University, is finishing its fifth season of field studies. The work begins in March and ends by mid-October. This was the fourth time that Penn College students contributed information for the database.

Kafer has collected data for the project since 1996, and she also monitors two of the 60 Pennsylvania sites surveyed for the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, an effort designed to detect long-term changes in frog and toad populations.

On the recent trip to Little Bear Creek, Kafer and three students collected, identified and released 27 specimens, including seven species of amphibians: American Toad, Pickerel Frog, Mountain Dusky Salamander, Redback Salamander, Spring Salamander, Northern Dusky Salamander and Northern Slimy Salamander. The group found no snakes or turtles on the 2 1/2-hour trip up and down the creek.

“The purpose of the Atlas Project is to determine, in detail, the types and densities of all species of reptiles and amphibians occurring within the borders of Pennsylvania,” Kafer explained. “One of the long-term goals is to provide a detailed database on the distribution of amphibians and reptiles that will aid environmental managers in making informed and ecologically sound decisions regarding resource utilization within the state.”

Students participating in the project this year were: Matthew M. Frye, Muncy, Environmental Technology; Kyrick D. Vollman, Williamsport, Pre-Physician Assistant; and Jonathan T. Waldman, Williamsport, Pre-Physician Assistant.

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