Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas
Newsletter 
Female Bullfrog (photo courtesy of Jim Wolford)                                                                                    Male Bullfrog (photo courtesy of Jim Wolford)
June 2000

NEWSLETTER CONTENTS:

 
New Coordinator
Through Your Participation
Long-term Herp Monitoring in NS
Prominent Feature
Starred Species and Forms
Atlasser Feedback
Progress and Outlook for the Project
Project Partners and Committee Members
Steering Committee Meeting
Up and Coming
Volume 2: Number 1
June 2000
NEW  COORDINATOR
With the start of the 2000 season we are pleased to welcome our new coordinator, Sonja Teichert.  She will act as a liaison for our atlassers, work to increase participation and interest in the project, and maintain the  web site and database.  We've let her introduce herself below.

April 17, 2000
Dear Atlassers,

I completed my Honours B.Sc. at the University of Western Ontario in 1995.  I have lived in Wolfville, NS, for the past five years, during which time I completed my M.Sc. in biology at Acadia University.  My work has been focussed on the field of spatial ecology and I have studied this topic for a variety of organisms:  the forked fungus beetle in NS (M.Sc.), ring-necked pheasant in NS, bobcat in NS, and birds and insects of the Gros Morne Greater Ecosystem.  As of April 13, 2000, I have begun my work as project coordinator.  My primary goal for this season will be to recruit more volunteers, and really get the word out to everyone, about what a fascinating and beneficial project the NS Herp Atlas Project is.  Since filling this position, I've had the opportunity to correspond with some of you.  This project could not be accomplished without the efforts of our volunteer atlassers and we rely on your feedback.  If you have any problems, or questions/comments about the project, do not hesitate to contact me.  Keep up the excellent work. 
 

Sincerely, 
Sonja Teichert
 
 


Northern Spring Peepers mating (photo courtesy of Jim Wolford)

THROUGH YOUR PARTICIPATION WE WILL:

1. Establish a database of herpetological information comprised of both historical and current data

2. Publish a herp atlas with the five years (1999-2003) of data collected during the project

3. Increase public awareness and appreciation of herps through their participation in collecting scientific data

4. Have data with which to assess spatial and temporal trends in our herp populations

5. Provide a database for use in conservation planning and resource/land use management

6. Identify specific areas that may need protection or more intensive monitoring now and in the future
 

LONG-TERM HERP MONITORING IN NOVA SCOTIA
Another beneficial outcome of the NS Herp Atlas will be to establish the infrastructure for the continuation of herp monitoring  in Nova Scotia after the completion of the project.

Long term data are important because they provide a baseline for detecting both population changes, and the impact of human activities on our  herp species.

Amphibians may be particularly sensitive to environmental changes because of their resource requirements, movement capabilities and permeable skin.  It has been suggested that amphibians may act as ideal bio-indicators because of their bi-phasic life history (they require both aquatic and terrestrial habitats during their lifetime).

Although it is believed that amphibians are declining world-wide, researchers need long-term data to be able to differentiate between local or regional  fluctuations and persistent population declines.  We don't yet have enough data from Nova Scotia to know if any species are in decline here.


Calling Eastern American Toad surrounded by Duck Weed (photo courtesy of Jim Wolford)

The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Project Newsletter 
Page 1

 
RECORDING SIGHTINGS
Prominent Feature
A piece of information that is required for all records submitted is the ‘PROMINENT FEATURE’.  In your Atlasser’s Guide, and on the Help screen for entering your records, we have defined it as “the most prominent feature in the square…some geographic feature that does not cover several squares (the largest lake, town, island, bay, mountain).  If no feature is really outstanding, …the one in the largest or boldest type, or closest to the middle of the square.” 

We use this information as an error check - to verify that the mapbook square that was entered is correct.  However, as defined, finding the prominent feature of a square is confusing, and subjective.  Each of us tend to have a different perspective of what the most prominent feature is, and hence there is no consistency.  To improve this screening tool, the new definition of the mapbook square's prominent feature is:

The most central, and/or largest piece of text found in the mapbook square”. 

This should minimize the number of possible prominent features for some of the squares.

ATLASSER FEEDBACK
This is an invitation for atlassers to submit stories or tips from their atlassing experiences, such as tips on how to (or  not to), approach shy herps for identification.  Also, do you have favorite ‘Herping Grounds’;  a location or locations where your herping has been productive?  Are there places that you've visited that you know are probably ‘Herp Havens’ but you just have not been lucky enough to have had any sightings on your visits?  You could also include any questions that you might have about how to herp.  For example, a number of atlassers have inquired about identifying amphibian eggs and tadpoles.  This can be challenging for even the most experienced herpetologist.  In the future, we plan  to provide atlassers with a guide that will help them to identify these amphibian life stages.  Lastly,  we would also like for to send us your herp photos (by post or email).  We will be giving the website a  ‘face-lift’ and would like to include educational and inspirational images of our NS herps.


Wood Frog (photo courtesy of atlassers Silvano and Mary Iaboni)
STARRED SPECIES AND FORMS
The NS Herp Atlas Project has designated a number of herps as starred species or colour forms.  These species are of special concern because of their rarity or limited distribution.  They include:
 
Province-wide
 
Species:
 
 

 

Blue-spotted Salamander 
Four-toed Salamander
Wood Turtle 
Blanding’s Turtle
non-native turtles
Northern Ribbon Snake

 
Forms:  Triploid Female of the Blue-spotted Salamander
All-red Phase of the Eastern Redback Salamander
Melanistic Phase of the Maritime Garter Snake

Regional
 

Eastern Mainland and
Cape Breton Island:
Common Snapping Turtle
Bullfrog
Eastern Painted Turtle* 
(*This classification is different in the ID Guide and Atlasser’s Guide)


Southwestern NS: Mink Frog

For these species and forms, additional information needs to be collected and entered for each record.  Specifically, the precise locality that the herp was found is very important and should include a good written description as well as UTM coordinates from a topographic map (noting the map sheet number and year).  Also we would like to know the visit time, a good description of the habitat it was found in and the behaviour of the herp.  As with all records, a note should be made about any abnormalities (injuries, deformities etc.).  In the past, ‘life stage’ was optional for records of common species.  We are now making it mandatory for all sightings because it is so easy to record, and is very useful in the long term.

The regional starred species need particular attention since some of last year's records had information missing.  Upon sighting one of these species, you should check the map in your Atlasser’s Guide (shown below).  Determine whether the square you were in falls within the geographic region for which the species is starred.  It is best to do this in the field so that you will be sure to make notes on their behaviour and habitat.
 
 
 
 

Regions of Nova Scotia (from Atlasser's Guide)
[Click the image to enlarge] 
The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Project Newsletter 
Page 2

 
PROGRESS AND OUTLOOK FOR THE NS HERP ATLAS PROJECT

The map below shows the amount of coverage (the number of species recorded per mapbook square) as of June 2, 2000.  Each circle represents data submitted for that square and the number in the circle gives the number of species recorded for that square.  Thus far only 104 of 650  atlassable squares (16%) have any species recorded.  The coverage goal of the atlas is to have at least 75% of  the expected species recorded for each square.  Expected species include all common species (i.e. not starred) and for the majority of the squares this will be 13 of the 17 expected species.
 
 

Herp Atlas Coverage as of June 2, 2000: 421 Records
[Click the image to enlarge] 

PROJECT PARTNERS AND COMMITTEE MEMBERS
So far there are seven donors of in-kind and financial support.  The steering committee for the NS Herp Atlas Project consists of 10 individuals, at least one representative from each of the partners.  This committee oversees the project.
 

Fred Scott – Acadia University's Wildlife Museum (Chair) Sonja Teichert – NS Herp Atlas Project Coordinator
Dr.  Philip Taylor – Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network (Acadia University) Dr. Tom Herman – Centre for Wildlife and Conservation Biology (Acadia University), Federation of NS Naturalists
Kate Bredin – Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center Rob Rainer – Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center
Debra Burleson – NS Museum of Natural History Andrew Hebda – NS Museum of Natural History
Dr. Sherman Boates – NS Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division Mark Elderkin – NS Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division
The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Project Newsletter 
Page 3

 
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING
MAY 2000
The committee held its first meeting of the 2000 season at Acadia University.  Discussion focussed on 2 issues:
 

Progress Update:  Sonja provided an update of her progress as coordinator.  This included ideas for the website, for increasing involvement and awareness of the project, and a list of activities for recruiting new atlassers.  Sonja also discussed her screening of the records in the database so far.  Much discussion arose from a 2 page handout of the analysis of the database.  The analysis suggests that with the current volunteer involvement, well directed, we will attain our coverage goal by the end of the project
 

Funding:  Currently there is an urgent need to secure additional project funding to ensure a coordinator for the duration of this season.  In a previous committee meeting it was agreed that it is necessary to have a project coordinator for at least 9 months of each year, for the 5 year duration of the project.  We will, therefore, try to target more long-term sources of funding; e.g. sources that will agree to provide a certain amount each year rather than a sum for the current year.  The funding situation is currently critical, and we will be doing everything that we can to pursue all  potential sources of income.


Ring-necked Snake (photo courtesy of the NS Museum of Natural History)

UP AND COMING!!
Website ‘Face-lift’:  An ongoing process will be to update the website.

General Appearance:  One of the most noticeable changes over the next little while will be it's general appearance.  The background and text colours will change, and it will include more graphics (photos of our NS herps).

Page Editing:  For example, the Eastern Painted Turtle should be listed as a starred species in Eastern Mainland NS and Cape Breton Island and presently it is not.

Database Searching:  We plan to include a new search page where registered atlassers will be able to look up their atlasser numbers.  Sometimes they get forgotten or misplaced, and so this page will allow atlassers to type in their name and retrieve their number without having to e-mail the coordinator and wait for a response.  As well, for the map display, we will enhance the search capabilities to enable searches by class, order, status (starred or common), county, and by record type (atlassed or incidental).

New Pages:  A new web page will be added to the site called ‘Our Atlassers’ (or some other appropriate title), which will describe who can volunteer (qualifications), who is atlassing (organizations), how we are recruiting atlassers and our progress.  We will also include a big THANK YOU to the atlassers.
 

Nova Scotia Mapbook On-line?  The status of the current edition of the book ‘A Map of the Province of Nova Scotia’, is not certain.  There has been discussion regarding updating the edition; however, the NS Herp Atlas Project will maintain its coverage goals according to the current edition because the new version will have a different grid system.  If the new edition is released, the NS Herp Atlas Project will get permission to publish the current edition on-line.  W e will keep you updated with any new information we receive regarding this.
 

Brochure and Poster:  Not only is it costly to send atlasser's guides to people who may be interested but are not yet committed to the project, it is also overwhelming for potential atlassers to be  introduced to the project by reading the 8 page atlasser's guide.  Brochures could be distributed more widely, and to locations where the general public will be able to pick up a copy, such as stores, museums, and parks.  A simple eye-catching poster could accompany these brochures.
 

Volunteer Training:  We will be searching for people who will act as regional coordinators or liaisons with the project coordinator.  We are hoping that these people will be able to help us with volunteer training sessions, act as ‘herping buddies’ for those who need some help getting started, and to help distribute brochures and posters.  Also, Fred Scott (committee chair) will be working this summer creating a training video that can be sent to atlassers across the province. 
 

CONTACT US

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments about the NS Herp Atlas Project please be in touch with us. 

The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Project Newsletter 
Page 4

Supplement


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