Scattered throughout White Memorial in forested areas near wetlands are nineteen grids of coverboards, which are simply boards of untreated wood that are left on the ground. They have been in place for many years as part of a long-term amphibian monitoring program. Amphibians like salamanders often shelter under rotting logs; the greater surface area provided by the coverboards allows us to find amphibians more easily than checking naturally occurring logs.
Amphibians are sensitive to a variety of environmental factors. Unlike mammals, who gain minerals like electrolytes by eating, amphibians absorb those minerals through their skin. Unfortunately, harmful things can also pass through their skin; they are extremely vulnerable to both local pollutants like farm runoff and global ones like acid rain. Climate change and diseases also threaten many species. The parasitic fungus chytrid has been causing extinction in amphibian species all over the world, and a new flesh-eating fungus discovered on salamanders in England may be spreading internationally.
By monitoring our amphibian coverboards regularly, we will notice changes in amphibian populations and can use this information to try to determine a cause. While we at White Memorial cannot end global climate change or acid rain by ourselves, we can attempt to stop the spread of diseases or address the sources of local pollutants.
Of particular interest to us are Jefferson salamanders, blue-spotted salamanders, and the hybrids that can result from those two species interbreeding. Blue-spotted salamanders are endangered in the state of Connecticut, and are limited to several small, isolated populations. The hybrids are state listed as species of special concern. While blue-spotted salamanders and hybrids look very similar, hybrids tend to be slightly lighter in color, dark gray rather than black, and both have striking, sky blue spots.
|Jefferson/Blue-spotted salamander hybrid|
|Led phase red-backed salamander|