Archive for Conservation

Searching for Traces of the Elusive Hellbender

This project is a collaborative partnership between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Buffalo State College, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, The Wilds, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and Memphis Zoo. Photography by Steven Johnson, Eastern Mennonite University.



Deadly fungus threatens U.S. salamanders

A new type of “chytrid” fungus has escaped from Asia and is killing European fire salamanders. This fungus is known as Bsal (short for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) and is closely related to the infamous Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) that has been causing massive die-offs of frogs across the globe. But until recently, no one knew if Bsal could infect other species besides fire salamanders. In a recent study, European researchers tested more than 30 species of frogs and salamanders to see which were susceptible to Bsal. Frog lovers finally got a bit of good news – all 10 frog species tested were completely resistant to Bsal. But a very different – and alarming – result emerged when salamanders were infected with the fungus.

The fungus was first discovered when it started killing European fire salamanders, like the one shown here.

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Fracking in the dark: biological fall out of shale-gas production still largely unknown

With unconventional gas production projected to surge during the next 30 years, determining and minimizing the industry’s effects on nature and wildlife must become a top priority. Image of Wyoming’s Jonah Field, an extreme example of the impacts of fracking operations on landscapes. (Photo courtesy of Ecoflight.)

For salamanders and other freshwater animals in Appalachia, fracking could be the beginning of the end. Working with a group of 7 other conservation biologists, I tried to piece together exactly what we know about the dangers of fracking to wildlife. What we found will surprise you.

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Celebrating Earth Day with salamanders at Finzel Swamp

What’s better than finding a longtailed salamander? Finding 3 of them!

What happens when mountains and moisture conspire to form a frost pocket in western Maryland? You get Finzel Swamp – an incredible ecosystem more reminiscent of Canada than southeast Appalachia! Biologists from The Nature Conservancy and Smithsonian’s National Zoo joined forces at Finzel Swamp to hunt for the striking, bright-yellow longtailed salamander. Hear the story from Lauren Landau on WAMU 88.5 Metro Connection this Friday, April 25 at 1 pm.

Climate change in Appalachia

Climate change may be the single biggest threat facing Appalachian salamanders. Here are the basic facts:


What are some signs that climate change is already occuring?

Average temperatures increased 2°F since 1970 and extreme temperatures have also increased.

extreme weather with map







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How can dirt threaten a hellbender?

Find out in this short video by Joseph Oak, a design student at Carnegie Mellon University.