Signs Erected to Protect Migrating Amphibians
It's officially springtime and the nights are getting warmer and warmer. That means it's time for amphibians to start laying their eggs. Amphibians such as frogs and salamanders are moving out from wooded areas to begin an important journey.
Dr. Lynne Beaty, Asst. Professor of Biology at Penn State Behrend, says there’s starting to be a lot of amphibian activity on campus.
"It's breeding season. So every year, as soon as the snow starts to melt, some of our earliest breeding amphibians start to migrate to the ponds. They spend most of the year in the woods underground and then as soon as it starts to warm up they come to the pond to breed."
Dr. Beaty and Dr. Adam Simpson, her colleague in the Biology Department, spent time watching the nighttime migration last year. Salamanders, newts, wood frogs and spring peepers, all leave the woods along Technology Drive and head for the ponds. Amphibians return to the exact same pond in which they were hatched. For some, it means crossing the road. Unfortunately, Dr. Beaty and Dr. Simpson found many of the small creatures dead on the highway.
"It's heartbreaking,” says Dr. Beaty. “We've actually been up here a couple of nights to see them cross the road and we've found them. Unfortunate victims of cars. It just crushes you."
Dr. Beaty decided to take action to save some of the amphibians. She suggested that signs be placed along Technology Drive this year asking motorists to be aware of the tiny pedestrians. You would think there would be a lot of bureaucratic red tape to put up such signs. Dr. Beaty says there was none.
"I just reached out to Maintenance and Operations here at Behrend and they were completely on board with putting the signs up."
There is another problem. The amphibians are so intent on getting to the ponds that some of them fall into storm water grates. The biology professors are working with engineering students to design mesh covers to put on those grates.
Dr. Simpson hopes this awareness campaign about amphibians is successful, not just on the Behrend campus, but throughout the area.
"Most people don't know that they exist. They only come out during certain times a year. But they're really charismatic and we hope that by raising awareness that more people start thinking about amphibians."