In the fall of 2016, a team of salamander-loving Harris Center staff and volunteers installed six study plots in the woods near the Harris Center as part of the Salamander Population & Adaptation Research Collaboration Network (SPARCnet), a regional research effort aimed at understanding the effects of climate change on woodland salamander populations. Each plot consists of 50 small wooden “coverboards” that appeal to woodland amphibians — especially redbacked salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) — as sources of shelter.
Each spring and fall, we work with a variety of students and community volunteers to monitor the coverboards. By keeping track of the salamanders found under each board, we can begin to get a sense for the abundance and distribution of redbacked salamanders in the Harris Center woods, and compare our findings to more than 30 other SPARCnet sites from Virginia to Ontario.
Redbacked salamanders were chosen as the focus species for this project because they're easily detectable, they're good indicators of forest health, and they're virtually everywhere. (photo © Dave Huth)
Harris Center naturalist John Benjamin turns over a coverboard in search of salamanders. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
Volunteers work together to install the SPARCnet coverboards. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
A juvenile redbacked salamander detected under a coverboard in a Harris Center SPARCnet plot. Human hands for scale! (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
For more information or to be notified the next time we have a SPARCnet community sampling day, contact Brett Amy Thelen by email.