Catawba students learn about salamander ecology

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

Catawba College

SALISBURY — Catawba College students in Biology Professor Dr. Joe Poston’s Ecology class made an overnight trip on Sept. 20 to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia to learn about salamander ecology. On the trip, students gathered data for two projects.

One project studied the change in salamander species with elevation. Students sampled nocturnal salamanders at the summit of Whitetop Mountain and then at several lower elevations to document each species’ preferred elevational distribution.

“This hands-on lab experience was incredible,” Catawba student Libby Bickenbach, of Norwood, noted. “Whitetop Mountain’s views were breathtaking”

The other project explored salamanders’ use of stream side habitats. During the daytime, Poston’s students searched a small stream and the surrounding woods for salamanders, identified species, and recorded each salamander’s distance from water.

“I’ve never been so excited to find salamanders in my life. It’s amazing how many there are, but if you’re not looking for them you will never see one,” Student Kara Cline, of Salisbury, said.

“The Southern Appalachian Mountains has the world’s highest diversity and abundance of salamander species in the world,” Poston explained. “The region is a wonderful natural laboratory of ecology. And students who may have never seen a salamander before quickly learn how to find them and identify them. It is gratifying to see students become so excited about salamander diversity and ecology.”

“This was the most intriguing field trip I have been on while here at Catawba. I wish we could have stayed longer,” senior Jay Minter, of Sanford, said after the trip.