My Bantam Lake App

In 2018, White Memorial intern Cheyenne Liberti created "My Bantam Lake" app to highlight Bantam Lake and its watershed as the premiere recreation destination of northwest Connecticut. This webapp provides the same information that "Bantam Lake Cyanos" did, but adds some multidimensional topics that should be of interest to the stakeholders of Bantam Lake.

Current Cyanos forecast when this was
written. More information about how
the forecast was developed, and what is
meant by "Caution" for lake users
Home page of My Bantam Lake, a webapp that builds off of the
"Cyanos" website with added topics to help engage lake users
in all aspects of living with and near a lake

Main menu for

Users are first greeted with a montage of beautiful photos of Bantam Lake. From there, they can navigate to a main menu which has options to explore community happenings, wildlife field guides, tips for living on a lake, and many other informative pages. Of course, the first option on the menu is the Cyanobacteria forecast. The site is extremely user-friendly, and offers so much to explore. I encourage anyone reading this to check it out for themselves, as writing about it cannot do it justice! 

The lake is much more than just a body of water. It affects, and is affected by, everything around it for miles and miles. So, it is only fair that an app that is developed for and about the lake should involve all the different aspects of it. 

Some of the wildlife field guides available of the webapp

It is hoped that this website will grow into a mutually-benefiting tool between the people who manage the lake and people who are most affected when the lake is un-usable.

Users can easily upload photos and videos to the webapp
Lake managers will benefit from a more robust body of data that is uploaded by app users. Something as simple as uploading a photo of dead fish on your beach or green algae washing up on shore can be a huge help to lake managers, who cannot survey every inch of the lake every single day. Cooperation is key!

Stakeholders of the lake will benefit in a few different ways. Just like with "Cyanos", they will be able to view the cyanobacteria forecast which helps guide their decisions about interacting with the lake. On a more long-term scale, lake users will be rewarded for their citizen science efforts with a better-managed lake. One that may be less prone to severe algal blooms, and the issues that accompany them.

Everyone has a responsibility to care for the lake, and with the help of, we can come together as a community to set achievable goals toward a healthier lake. 

Shannon's Salamanders: Increasing our amphibian survey with the help of a local graduate student

We started the 2018 season by chopping wood, and lots of it. Slab wood left over from the milling process has been piling up on White Memorial’s property, and we knew exactly who could use it- Amphibians. This summer started out with hauling this wood out into the woods to increase the number of amphibian cover board grids. These grids get surveyed every year to get an idea of amphibian diversity and abundance at White Memorial. This year, it got taken to the next level.
Shannon shown here excitedly showing off a Four-Toed
Salamander she found at one of the grids

Shannon Smith, Litchfield native and Trinity College student, completed her Master’s thesis on White Memorial’s salamanders. Specifically, how Red-Backed salamanders are affected by invasive non-native earthworms. To help Shannon get data for this project, we doubled the amount of cover board grids present on the property, and aided her in field work whenever we could.

Shannon is shown here surrounded by her research
materials. 4 1-Gallons jugs of water mixed with mustard
were brought to each plot, no matter how remote

Her methods required sampling of salamanders, earthworms, leaf litter, and soil invertebrates for each of the 40 grids. Each grid took about 2 hours, a lot of grit, a good sense of direction, and tons of Tecnu to complete.  

Some of the research materials on top of a cover board.
Each grid had 25 of these cover boards that needed
to individually be flipped and analyzed for salamanders

Her research questions evolved as time went on, as is normal for research in this field; so little is known about the earthworm invasion and its implications. Because about half of the cover board grids she sampled had been present for years prior to her project, and the other half had just been dealt out only a few months prior, she had to account for the dispersal rate of these animals to the new grids.

She found that the strongest influences on salamander abundance were leaf litter quality, soil temperature, and invertebrate community diversity.

Red-Backed Salamander found in Shannon's
Non-native earthworms decrease the quality of the leaf litter, and also decrease diversity of soil invertebrates. This means that earthworms are indirectly having a negative impact on CT’s Red-backed salamanders.

Red-Backed Salamanders are Connecticut's most abundant amphibian. By consuming large numbers of soil invertebrates which are otherwise unavailable as food for larger animals, Red-Backed Salamanders play a key role in moving nutrients up the food web. They are eaten mainly by songbirds, but also mammals of many sizes and also larger amphibians. 
This study is showing that earthworms may be negatively affecting these amphibian's ability to play that key role in the food web. Earthworms are altering the soil environment for these important amphibians by decreasing the amount/diversity of soil invertebrates and influencing the leaf litter layers.  This could have serious ecological effects reaching far up the food web.  More research is needed to understand the role that non-native earthworms play in our soil, and how they are affecting other soil invertebrates. 

You can help limit the earthworm invasion by not dumping unused "night crawlers" or other worms in the forest but rather the trash bin.  Recognize that earthworms are having huge impacts on forest health, and try not to spread them around. 
Four-Toed Salamander, a species much less
common than the Red-Backed

Game Cameras, Worth the investment!

Game cameras have been used for years by hunters and trappers to know what "game" animals are on their property. Today, we see these cameras being used for security, wildlife research, and many other tasks, though they are still most commonly used to monitor game species by hunters. 

The act of using a game camera is called "camera trapping". A game camera is a weather proof camera that is left outdoors for long periods of time. Heat or motion trigger the device to take a photo or video, depending on the user's preference. Most cameras come equipped with different settings which can be altered to yield the desired product. 

The great thing about these cameras is that they provide a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to answer simple questions about a habitat, ie, which animals are found where, and when?

At White Memorial, game cameras are used to explore which species are using different habitats. In previous blog posts you can see all the different species we recorded remotely using these cameras. Whether it was pointed toward a carcass to view scavengers, or aimed at a headwater stream to view animals using water, they always provide some insight to wildlife habits. 
However, our scope is limited to our four cameras and small research staff. We hope that citizen science can help fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the local wildlife. 

As game cameras increase in popularity, they've also decreased in cost. Advances in technology have made it easy to get a relatively cheap camera that will last you a few years. We'd like to encourage local landowners to invest in one or more of these cameras just to see what species you can capture on your property. You may be surprised at what you find! 

The Rhode Island Natural History Survey has outlined some advice for landowners who may want to use game cameras on their property. Topics such as using them for security reasons, and the legality of using them at a land trust or other popularly recreated area. That link is here.

The Nature Conservancy has gathered some insight about using game cameras for citizen science, along with advice for purchasing cameras. That content is available here

We hope you are inspired to explore the unknown side of your land; the side that you don't get to witness in person. The elusive animals that escape the limited field of your vision may be captured by a game camera! 
To further inspire you, please enjoy some of my personal favorite photos gathered from camera traps this season. 

Happy Trapping!

This Catbird was captured after a river otter changed the angle of my camera.
This White-tailed Deer was captured at Apple Hill
upper field along a stone wall that separates the open field
from the dense vegetation. 
A River Otter spotted at Cat Swamp off the Laurel Hill trail.
This camera was placed about 12 feet high in a tree
facing down toward the swamp
This is the River Otter that chewed on and tossed around the 
game camera I placed on a log in at Mallard Marsh.

This fawn was found at Mallard Marsh (between 202 and Whites Wood Road) after my game camera was messed with by the River Otter. 

This Black Bear was captured off the Mattatuck near Beaver Pond