Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Northeast Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

Wetland sampling at C&O Canal National Historical ParkWetland sampling at C&O Canal National Historical Park

<em>Plethodon cylindraceus</em>Plethodon cylindraceus

Sampling  for salamanders in a headwater stream in Shenandoah National ParkSampling for salamanders in a headwater stream in Shenandoah National Park

<em>Desmognathus</em> nesting siteDesmognathus nesting site

The conclusion to a day of field work in Shenandoah  National ParkThe conclusion to a day of field work in Shenandoah National Park

Hyla versicolorHyla versicolor

Salamander collection crew in Shenandoah National ParkSalamander crew in Shenandoah National Park

Stream  samplingStream sampling

NEARMI study sites

Recent News

Elucidating mechanisms underlying amphibian declines in North America using hierarchical spatial models: ARMI project is selected by The Powell Center

ARMI scientists Evan Grant and Erin Muths teamed with David Miller (former ARMI post doc and now professor at Pennsylvania State University) to produce the proposal that was selected for Powell Center Support for 2014-2015. The Powell Center is a USGS center that facilitates the development of new and innovative processes by which scientific understanding can be applied to significant and complex issues in a unique setting for analysis and data synthesis.

The proposal moves forward from the recently published paper describing the magnitude of amphibian declines in the U.S. (Adams et al. 2013), and will now examine the mechanisms of decline using a data driven, but model-based, approach. Though focused on North America, the insights will be applicable to other systems and will lay the foundation for a larger, perhaps international, assessment of mechanisms behind global amphibian

The 15 member working group includes not only ARMI scientists and data collected over the last 10 years, but others with long-term data on amphibians including scientists from Canada, Mexico and Europe. The first working group meeting was held in Fort Collins in January 2014, and the second in Fall 2014. A hallmark of the Powell Center is that it isĀ "a scientist-driven institution where leveraging existing research efforts produces powerful new insights and moves scientific understanding and its inclusion into management forward at an accelerated pace."

Read more about this project, including the proposal abstract, here.

life cycle diagram

Trends in Amphibian Occupancy in the United States

Michael J. Adams, David A. W. Miller, Erin Muths, Paul Stephen Corn, Evan H. Campbell Grant, Larissa L. Bailey, Gary M. Fellers, Robert N. Fisher, Walter J. Sadinski, Hardin Waddle, Susan C. Walls

Public Library of Science ONE

22 May 2012.

What we found

Based on sampling on protected areas from across the United States, including from the mid-Atlantic and from National Parks and Refuges across the northeast , ARMI has produced the first estimate of how fast we are losing amphibians.

Even though the declines seem small and negligible on the surface, they are not; small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time.  For example, a species that disappears from 2.7 % of the places it is found per year will disappear from half of the places it occurs in 26 years if trends continue. More concerning is that even the species we thought were faring well – that is, fairly common and widespread -- are declining, on average. Fowler’s Toad (9 total years of data at 1 area: -0.06% annual trend) and Spring Peepers (26 total years at 5 areas: -0.06%) are examples of IUCN Least Concern Species for which we found a declining trend at the places we monitor. We also found evidence that amphibian declines are even taking place in protected areas like National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. Check out the full publication here.

What we are doing

The Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) brings scientists and resource managers together to make real progress on a difficult problem.  The ARMI program is a model for a productive program that links management and cutting edge science – since its inception in 2000, ARMI has produced over 430 publications  on amphibian ecology, methodological advances for studying wildlife populations, and information useful to our DOI partners and beyond.  We now have the first continental scale amphibian monitoring program at a point where broad-scale analyses can occur.  This gives us new ways to study amphibian declines and look for ways to address the problem.

In the northeast, we are working with our resource management partners in NPS and FWS to identify and implement management strategies we think are optimal for maintaining populations - typically involving habitat manipulation.   In addition, we will continue to monitor populations, and to develop novel research approaches to better understand what is causing declines, which will help to generate support for management options.

Sampling amphibians
Sampling amphibians

Appalachian Salamander Display at the National Zoo

The Appalachian Region is well known for its many unique attributes; not least among them are its ancient mountains, variable forest types, and formidable streams. However, one element of its uniqueness remains surprisingly obscure; salamanders. There are 535 salamander species known in the world and 76 of those species occur in the Appalachian Region, with nearly half of those species endemic to this area. The status of these salamanders remains relatively uncertain due to difficulties associated with sampling for individuals and estimating populations. A collaborative effort by NE ARMI and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is addressing some of these uncertainties by focusing research on eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), and red-backed (Plethodon cinereus) and Shenandoah salamanders (Plethodon shenandoah). One product of this effort is the establishment of an Appalachian salamander lab and exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, which is currently in the process of development. The goal is to spotlight these species as well as the science behind conserving this unique hotspot of salamander diversity.

National Zoo Exhibit
View of the Appalachian Salamander Exhibit currently in development at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

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