A variety of Herpetology Studies are introduced to participants at all three HRE locations. Students are taught how to collect data according to accepted scientific protocols. There are many long-term herpetology and herpetology education studies happening here in North Carolina. Organizations and individuals across our state are monitoring Eastern box turtles. A UNCG student and faculty member are monitoring salamander activities in vernal pools in Orange County, NC. Others are studying mountain salamanders and coastal terrapins and sea turtles.
Aquatic Turtles and Their Habitats
Of the twenty-one species of turtles found in North Carolina, all but one are highly aquatic, meaning they spend most of their time in the water. How do scientists know what kinds of turtles can be found in the rivers, ponds and lakes of our state? They conduct a variety of population studies like the ones we conduct at our HREs.
Box Turtles and Their Habitats
Eastern box turtles are primarily terrestrial turtles. Named for the dome-shaped carapace, or shell, they can close up almost completely, protecting softer parts of the body from predators. Scientists are interested in locating and studying box turtles to learn more about the statewide distribution of this reptile. By tracking local populations in areas across the state, we can help scientists to estimate the number of box turtles in North Carolina and to better understand the range and habits of these turtles.
Calling Amphibians and Their Habitats
Frogs and toads normally rely upon camouflage and their small size to remain hidden from predators and people. All of this changes during the mating season, when males begin to call to females. It is during this time of year when scientists can most easily collect information about the distribution and relative abundance of calling amphibians. By examining the data from multiple years, scientists can identify trends in calling behaviors and changes in frog and toad populations.
Lizards and Their Habitats
Lizard lore abounds even though there are fewer NC lizard species than NC frog, salamander, snake, or turtle species. Lizards are fascinating reptiles that are high in abundance in NC though they are sometimes difficult to find and even harder to capture. Lizards play a vital role in NC ecosystems by helping control insect populations.
Snakes and Their Habitats
The general population is generally afraid of, intrigued by, and surprised by this group of legless reptiles. In North Carolina, 37 species of snakes have been identified. By practicing identification of snakes and studying their behavior, we can learn a great deal about these often misunderstood creatures.
Ephemeral pools contain water for only a portion of the year, usually, but not always drying up by late summer. Because water may not be present throughout the year, an ephemeral pool is devoid of organisms that require permanent aquatic habitats, like fish. This makes these pools ideal sites for amphibians laying eggs, as fish often consume amphibian eggs and larvae.
While amphibians are usually associated with lakes and ponds by everyday observers, they are common and important residents of rivers and even small streams. Frogs, toads and salamanders are common and important denizens of streams of all sizes. Streams can be important to both adult and immature amphibians, but because these animals are primarily nocturnal, they often go unnoticed. This project emphasizes the presence and importance of frogs and salamanders in a small stream community.
Woodland areas, or forests, provide suitable habitat for a wide variety of animals, including reptiles and amphibians. We can capture different herp species, identify them, record physical data and learn more about their habitat requirements and their movements by putting out multiple types of artificial habitat in the forest.