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New Bio Initiative Seeks Protection for Reptiles and Amphibians

April 3, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Shane Lindsay
Senior Shane Lindsay with a snapping turtle.

Does the Charlotte area feel crowded to you? Just imagine how it would feel if you were a toad or a turtle!

The rapid residential and commercial development that is swelling the human population is diminishing the places where amphibians and reptiles can live. Michael Dorcas, a Davidson College biologist, wants members of the public to help creepers, hoppers, and crawlers in this area through the new Central Carolina Amphibian and Reptile Initiative (CCARI).

Along with Don Seriff of the Mecklenburg County Natural Resources Division, he's inviting those interested to participate in a "Herp Bioblitz" on Saturday, April 21, to survey the reptile and amphibian population of Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge in Huntersville. The activity begins at 10 a.m. with a short introductory meeting at the observation platform. Teams of surveyors, headed by trained biologists who can identify amphibians and reptiles, will then fan out over the area and record where they've spotted animals like black racer snakes, box turtles, spotted salamanders, and tree frogs. "Late April is the perfect time to look for them," said Dorcas. "Many of them have just come out of hibernation and are looking for mates."

Dorcas explained that CCARI hopes to coordinate the conservation efforts of various groups in a twelve-county area of central Piedmont of North and South Carolina, while partnering with the three-year-old national Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) initiative.

At this point, CCARI is largely a collaboration between Davidson College and the Mecklenburg County Department of Natural Resources, but Dorcas hopes others will become involved. "The idea is to get people from all sorts of private and public organizations working together toward the same goal, which is basically saving habitats so we can save animals," he said.

Shane Lindsay and Luke Roberts
Luke Roberts '00 (left) and senior Shane Lindsay.

Davidson College biology students have undertaken several research projects which further the mission of CCARI. One student studied the effects of cattle on turtles in farm ponds, another is radio tracking box turtles to examine the effects of development on their ecology, and various students have been studying animal populations on the Davidson College Ecological Preserve, a large tract of undeveloped college land. Dorcas said that studies of such areas provide a base line of information that can be used as a regional reference.

CCARI also encompasses the work of students at East Lincoln High School and personnel of Duke Power environmental management, who are studying animals attracted under "coverboards" placed in wooded areas.

In addition to compiling the results of academic studies and population counts, CCARI will make educational presentations to school children and other interested groups.

Dorcas conceded that it's unlikely that conservation groups can do much more than preserve small pockets of undisturbed habitat for amphibians and reptiles. But the information the groups collect can be valuable in minimizing ecological impact of development that does occur. "If someone wants to build on a piece of land and leave part of it undisturbed, studies like ours can help direct their efforts to save local species," he said.

For more information on CCARI or the Bioblitz, contact Dorcas at 894-2727, or Don Seriff at the Mecklenburg County Division of Natural Resources at 598-8857. You can also register online for the Bioblitz at www.bio.davidson.edu/ccari.

Ross Cocklin
Senior Ross Cocklin wades in a frog pond, while conducting field research .

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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