Biology at SBC



Continuing the spotted salamander population study we began in 2007 and continued in 2008, in 2010 the students in BIOL 324 (General Ecology) and BIOL 218 (Field Natural History) again censused adult spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) as they came to breed in Guion Pond and the Upper Lake.

All photographs were taken by Linda Fink.


captured, sexed and weighed.

The salamanders were examined for Visible Implantable Elastomer (VIE) marks from our 2008 census. Marks were found on 183 individuals.  Of 162 recaptures that had been VIE tagged in Guion Pond, 161 were recaptured in the pond and 1 was recaptured at the Upper Lake.  In contrast, of 17 recaptured salamanders that had been VIE tagged at the Upper Lake, 7 were recaptured at Guion Pond.  This tells us that site fidelity to Guion Pond is greater than site fidelity to the Upper Lake.

The 2010 salamanders weighed significantly more than in 2008, indicating that the breeders were larger, older, and/or in better condition than in 2008.



The first wave of salamanders on the night of 10-11 March surprised us.  We had stopped monitoring the fencelines at 10 pm because there was no rain. At 10:05, intermittent light showers began, lasting several hours but producing less than 1/10 inch of rain.  This wetted the forest floor sufficiently for many of the salamanders to make their trek to breeding areas .  On the morning of 11 March, we recovered 138 salamanders from our pitfall traps at Guion Pond and the Upper Lake.  The salamanders were weighed and examined for VIE marks by the Field Natural History class, and released in the evening.


The majority of salamanders arrived with heavier rains on the night of 11-12 March, with laggards arriving on 12-13, 13-14 and 14-15 March.  In addition to Ecology and Natural History students and Professor Fink, the soggy data collectors included regulars Rob Alexander (Professor of Environmental Studies), Janet Steven (Professor of Biology), and alumna-and-VIE-tagging expert Sara Rothamel; several volunteers from the 2008 Ecology class, and high school ecology teacher Chris Chamberlin.  Making use of technology, we emailed President Parker from the pond, and she came down with boots and curiosity.  (She blogged about her visit.)



The 2010 salamander census was supervised by Professor Linda Fink and, Naturalist-in-Residence Mike Hayslett, under a permit granted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.


Site maintained by L.S. Fink
Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar VA 24595
Last modified May 2010