Current Research on Species at Risk: Amphibians and Reptiles


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Pinta Tortoise

Pinta Island in the Galapagos Archipelago has had two major ecosystem disruptions in recent history: the loss of its nativeecosystem engineer, the Pinta giant tortoise (now represented by a single individual, “Lonesome George”), and severe devegetation caused by a large and invasive population of goats.  Ecosystem restoration on Pinta began with the culmination of the 30-year goat eradication program in 2003.  Restoration progressed to the next stage in 2010 when the Galapagos National Park introduced a group of 39 non-reproductive adult “ecological analog” tortoises to reinstate the ecosystem services that Pinta tortoises previously provided. Project Title: Ecosystem restoration on Pinta Island, Read more about this research…


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Bog Turtle

Bog turtle populations are experiencing dramatic declines throughout their range. Many seemingly viable populations remain in New York State, but several have disappeared during the past several decades. Habitat loss is suspected as the primary reason for these declines. The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) is globally threatened, with many populations of only 5 to 50 individuals.  Current research focuses on two aspects of the conservation of this species: Investigating connections between landscape factors and bog turtle persistence and extirpation to better understand bog turtle ecology and make informed conservation decisions, and Investigating inter-population movements to inform regional conservation planning to ensure Read more about this research…


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Kihansi Spray Toad

A particular uncertainty in the case of the Kihansi spray toad, an amphibian species now extinct in the wild, is relative importance of multiple stressors occurring simultaneously, that is, pesticide exposure, disruptions of food supply and infection with pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. An understanding of toxicity levels due to direct exposure of Kihansi spray toads to endosulfan as well as interactions among endosulfan exposure, starvation and disease in toad fitnesswould enhance capacity for post-hoc interpretation of the potential role of this compound in previous population declines as well as inform whether limiting exposure to this compound should be a consideration Read more about this research…


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Hellbender

Hellbender populations range-wide are experiencing drastic decline.  Effective conservation strategies require understanding environmental factors underlying population occurrence within the stream networks Hellbenders inhabit. We have contrasted habitat elements between historically occupied and apparently unoccupied sites throughout the Upper Susquehanna sub-basin, which represents the northernmost segment of the species’ range. Project Title: Multi-scale Factors Influencing Distribution of the Hellbender Salamander (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis) in the Northern Segment of its Range Summary: Historically occupied sites contained larger rocks and less soft sediment than unoccupied sites.  Predictive models of species’ distribution indicated that specific geologic features — loamy till, clayey to loamy till, and Read more about this research…


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Espanola Tortoise

Three globally endangered, interacting species are restricted to Española Island in the Galapagos Archipelago: the waved albatross (the world’s only tropical albatross), a morphologically and genetically distinct lineage of giant tortoise, and a large-seeded, arboreal prickly pear cactus. Scientists and managers agree that restoring Española is a major priority for conservation in Galapagos but how best to proceed with conservation management is less clear. Many important questions remain unanswered. The prevailing question is whether active management is required to meet the needs of these species or should nature be left to take its course, albeit unnatural due to human-caused changes Read more about this research…


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Massasauga Rattlesnake

Sistrurus c. catenatus (eastern massasauga rattlesnake) is an endangered snake with many disjunct populations, due to natural habitat specificity, persecution, and habitat destruction. One population, located in central New York, is at risk of further habitat loss as its basking habitat in an old field is undergoing secondary succession. In an attempt to improve habitat quality at this site, a prescribed burn was performed by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. Project Title: Habitat management for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus c. catenatus) through prescribed burning of an old field Summary: We are examining the impacts of the prescribed burn Read more about this research…