news-category: Academics

Gardner-Webb Students Examine Reptiles and Amphibians on Campus and at Broad River

Their Findings Were Documented on Global Website, HerpMapper.org

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University students in the animal physiology class with Assistant Professor of Biology Jay Zimmer recently conducted two outdoor labs to collect and record data about local reptiles and amphibians. For their survey, they explored the creek behind the Gardner-Webb football practice field as well as the Broad River Greenway the following week.

The GWU Library was kind enough to send along Ary Bottoms, the AV/printing & bindery coordinator. Bottoms is also an amateur herpetologist, a person who studies reptiles and amphibians. Bottoms shared a wealth of information with the class and played a key role in species identification and collection techniques.

McCoy Stowe, a student in the class explained how the students carefully captured the specimens, took photos, and logged the pictures along with altitude, latitude and longitude to the global website, HerpMapper.org. “This lab was a very enjoyable experience and one that I believe is unique to Gardner-Webb,” he observed.

After collecting the data, the specimens were safely returned to their habitat. HerpMapper is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization designed to gather and share information about reptile and amphibian across the planet. High numbers of amphibians indicate a clean environment. The North Carolina area is also blessed by having the highest diversity of amphibians on the planet.

Some of the reptiles and amphibians surveyed were a Spotted Dusky Salamander, Northern Dusky Salamander, Southern Leopard Frog, Southern Two-Lined Salamander, Eastern Box Turtle and Northern Water Snake.

“Going out to the Broad River was an amazing experience to do some hands-on learning, and time a little trip away from the classroom,” noted one of the students, Avery Callan. “It is really interesting to know that we can find the salamanders we learned about all week in our very own backyard. Never knowing whether the rock you were about to flip over would have nothing, different kinds of salamanders, crayfish, fogs and even a few snakes beneath it, was always a fun surprise. I think it’s important to see that you can find so much in the world around you and how you can appreciate and handle our local nature with care.” 

Shiasia Jefferies discovered that she liked salamanders. “I love that they have their own little specialized habitats, like under rocks or in a mostly moist environment,” she explained. “It was funny that we had to be swift when lifting a rock to catch them. They’re so fast! I was forced to get my feet soaked and dirty, which was way out of my comfort zone; however, it was an experience I would not mind having again.”

Another student, Ireyona Demary, remarked about the technique of catching the salamanders with sandwich baggies. “Ary mentioned that because of the oils on our hands, touching the salamanders directly could cause suffocation to them since some of them lack lungs and gills and breathe through their skin and mouth parts,” Demary described. “Ary Bottoms and I went searching for salamanders on the first day of the lab and were knee deep in the creek. This was a lot of fun, but the water was a bit chilly. I would definitely do this lab again as I didn’t realize I would be as interested in salamanders as I am now.”

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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