SEPARC Meeting in Florida

Dr. Goodman and 3 students from the Herpetology BIO 385 class recently attended the annual Southeastern Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation meeting. The SEPARC meeting was held during Feb 18-21 at Camp Ocala in the Ocala National Forest, Florida. We got to see some great talks and posters, network with scientists and conservation practitioners, attend workshops, and more…

Our rustic cabins with … Bunks!

We got to take canoes out on Sellars Lake, which is right next to the campground

Lots of great research posters and local species of herps to learn about (baby gopher tortoise here).

Crocodile hunters!!  Allen Luck, Sam Smith, Dr. Rachel Goodman

Sam Smith, Allen Luck, Dr. Rachel Goodman, Erica Rutherford

We also took a short detour to see a large group of manatees that comes into a natural hot spring to warm up in this chilly weather. The count that day was 176, up from only a dozen before the area was protected in the 1970’s. Definitely worth the trip to Blue Spring National Park– a must if you’re near Orlando!  We were close enough to touch them, though we didn’t (see sign on below-left; below-right photo source: USFWS Digital Library).

Herpetology field trip as described by the students…

[January 26, 2010] With a fearless professor at the helm, we set off for the Three Lakes Nature Center & Aquarium in Henrico, VA, to have a private session within the confined inner workings of the center. Three Lakes Nature Center displays an impressive range of not only local amphibians & reptiles in captivity, which was our main focus, but also birds and insects along with their aquarium that holds dozens of Virginian freshwater fish species. My personal preference was to take note on the local captured turtle species that spend their days roaming around their own miniature-sized ecosystems, complete with personal pond and little fish companions that double as snacks.

– Sam Smith

A guided tour [Thank you again, Wade!] showcasing over twenty species left the class mesmerized by the numerous creatures many will never see in nature… Rarely seen by humans except during the breeding season, Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) spend the majority of their lifetime in borrows two feet below ground. Their bright coloration deters supposed predators; however, due to their wide range tiger salamanders only have a 50% chance of breeding more than once in the wild. With the upmost devotion, these critters will return to their birthplace no matter the distance to breed. The protection of such species is in our control, and we must protect such individuals for years to come.

– Allen Luck

Visiting the Three Lakes Nature Center gave us the chance to see some native species of reptiles and amphibians that we might not have the chance to see elsewhere. Many are found in different parts of Virginia [than Farmville], such as the Map Turtles, Mudpuppies, and Pine Snakes, found in the Western mountains of the state. Rainbow snakes and Eastern Chicken Turtles are found along the coast. Some species we saw are very rare in the wild, such as the Eastern Chicken Turtle, Diamondback Terrapin, and Pine Snake.

– Erica Rutherford

In the back rooms, we had the chance to see some of the animals that were not on display, including other specimens of the species on exhibit. Others were nonnative species from other parts of the country or world. There were a number of interesting turtles (I had never heard of a soft-shell turtle) and snakes in the main exhibit but the majority of the living specimens are kept in an area the general public doesn’t often have the chance to visit. Behind the scenes, we saw a number of rare amphibians that that we probably wouldn’t have seen in the wild here in Virginia. One such rare amphibian was an albino [marbled] salamander, an incredibly rare find; to our guide’s knowledge, it is the only known captive albino salamander of its species.

– Alex Davidovich

Personally, my favorite creature was the giant snapping turtle. With its long neck exposed and its tail reached straight out, I truly got an understanding of just how enormous and magnificent these creatures truly are. His aggressive nature was obvious and was demonstrated when someone tried to approach the glass. He was quick to go into action by turning his head and heading toward the glass with his neck extended in a very uneasy looking manner. The shear beauty of this creature is really not something that can be described.

– Zach Harrelson

With two lakes to fish, areas to feed the ducks, and shelters for picnics, Three Lakes Park is a great place to take families. Both young and old will be entertained by the endless possibilities.

-Allen Luck