Congratulations to Ashley Bray for winning the April 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of Wood Frog riding a Spotted Salamander during spring migration garnered the most votes. With nearly 5,500 photo-observations of 731 species submitted by nearly 550 observers this month, it was competitive. But the comical action shot showing this annual rite of spring won the most attention.
Spotted Salamanders are the quiet celebrities of vernal pools. Loudly marked, and fixed with what seems to be a perpetual smile, the Spotted Salamander has slimy starpower, the vernal pool’s equivalent of a Giant Panda. They also have fascinating life histories – essentially spending the year underground and emerging during spring rains for a once-a-year breeding session. Beyond that, Spotted Salamanders are among our best indicators of healthy vernal pool and woodland ecosystems.
VCE’s work with Spotted Salamanders comes in the course of our projects to map and monitor vernal pools – forested wetlands with a specialized suite of invertebrates and amphibians. Spring Peeper, Wood Frog, Jefferson Salamander, Fingernail Clams, and Fairy Shrimp are among other vernal pool species. Spotted Salamanders are also part of our work examining mercury levels in vernal pools. These pools and their distinctive wildlife are at risk. Threats include timber harvesting, which if it doesn’t ruin the pool itself can reduce the “canopy closure” necessary for Spotted Salamanders and other amphibians that rely on vernal pools for breeding.
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking ‘fav’ on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!