The online early version of our new paper on glass frog communities in old-growth and second-growth rain forests is now available. This paper is the result of seven expeditions over five years to Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago with my wonderful student co-authors. Click here to access the online version. Congrats all!
2020 has been a long year for everyone and it was a challenging to finish my salamander fieldwork for this year. I have several large, ongoing projects with local salamanders but under normal circumstances, I would have lots of help from College of Wooster students and the citizen scientists who volunteer with the “Salamander Squad.” Due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I didn’t have the help I had gotten used to having. Without all the extra hands, completing my 2020 fieldwork took far longer than usual. But (as of yesterday), it is now complete! Let’s hope for a 2021 that will allow gatherings so we can chase salamanders together once again.
Since 2011, I have been the director of the Fern Valley Field Station, the College of Wooster’s outdoor learning laboratory. This 56-acre property was generously donated to the College by David and Betty Wilkin. Most of the property is forested, however, there is a large field (about 12 acres) that formerly was used for grazing cattle. Currently, this old field is dominated by goldenrod. This past May, we officially started an effort to turn this old field back into a forest by transplanting native tree species into the field.
With protection from white-tailed deer and other herbivores with the plastic tubes, hopefully the trees will grow rapidly and begin to turn this field into a young forest (if they can survive the summer heat). We will be tracking the changes that occur as that process unfolds. Thanks to Oria Daugherty (’21) and Caden Croft (’21) for pitching in. Check out the Fern Valley website to learn more!
After over two years of research and compiling information, I am happy to say that my new website “Phytotelm Breeding Frogs of the World” has launched! Phytotelm breeding frogs are those that reproduce in plant-held water bodies like tree holes, leaf axils or the tanks of bromeliads. Currently, I am aware of 256 frog species distributed in eleven families that breed in phytotelmata (approximately three percent of all known frogs). These species are all tropical or subtropical and often have derived parental care behaviors and bizarre adaptations to life in these micro-aquatic habitats. The distribution of these specialized forms in so many different families indicates that this lifestyle has evolved independently many different times. Much remains to be learned about their lives.
Just a few days ago, our first paper on melanistic gray squirrels appeared in the journal Ecology and Evolution. This paper was ten years in the making, as the first squirrel surveys in this effort were conducted way back in 2010. Using citizen science data, we found that melanistic gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are widespread but often localized in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada. Below is a snapshot of some of the coloration patterns we found in this widespread species.
We also found that in Ohio, the frequency of the gray versus the black color morph varies dramatically among locations. In the Wooster, Ohio population (in which monitoring began in 2010 and continues to today) significant changes in color morph frequency over time and space were also detected. However, these changes over space and time in the frequency of our black squirrels seem very idiosyncratic and difficult to predict. We suggest that genetic drift may be an important evolutionary mechanism behind these changes. Many thanks to Brian Carlson, Alyssa Hamm (’20), Lexi Riley (’21), Maria Mullen (’18) and Weston Gray (’19) for all of their contributions to this work!