With the support of our partners at the Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy, we were able to make another trip this season to Fort Stewart, GA to search for the endangered Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum). Other partners on the project are the US Army, GA DNR and USFWS


If you didn't see our post a few weeks ago, Fort Stewart has the last known population of Atlantic clade Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders on the planet. (click here to see 'Part 1' of the story). We have been working with Fort Stewart Biologists Larry Carlile, Tim Beaty and Roy King on identifying where on the base these salamanders are still present, as well as collecting a portion of the larvae for the establishment of the world's only captive propagation colony for the species.

This time, we were also assisted by students from my Biology of Amphibians class at Agnes Scott, as well as dedicated Ft Stewart staff and USFWS.

The first detection of the year award goes to Miranda Wilkinson, DNR Technician who, with other staff from DNR (Erin Cork and John Floyd) found the first larva in a couple of years at the historic wetland on Fort Stewart. (photo by Erin Cork)
Rob Tiffin, Chris Coppola and Roy King standing next to the historic Alpha 10 pond - Feeling good about finding Frosted Flatwoods Salamander larvae. Chris' beard is reflecting Roy's shirt.
We were eager to sample wetlands we hadn't been to yet this season, but we also wanted to check the water levels at the pond where we detected larvae weeks before — and lucky we did! The occupied wetland had dried to just a few inches of water in some parts, and the larvae were in risk of desiccating before they could metamorphose. That changes the parameters of our study from collection to rescue/salvage.

We detected another 20 larvae in the pond where we had found 21 just a couple of weeks earlier.
Rob Tiffin looking quite pleased after finding his first Frosted Flatwoods Salamander.
Kate Carson examining what is in her dipnet.
We returned to the same area of the pond were we had detections on the prior visit and found another 20 larvae for inclusion in our captive propagation program back in Atlanta at the Amphibian Foundation.
Kate Carson in perfect field pose
Roy King entering eDNA samples hoping to detect Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders with technology at various wetlands throughout the base.
Tanya Povolny contemplating how great it is to find so many salamanders in one trip.
Kate Carson, Roy King, Chris Coppola, Tanya Povolny, James Leckie and Rob Tiffin form an amazing sampling team for Flatwoods Salamanders.
Chris Peterson and Paul Block from the US Navy team of Biologists assisted with the sampling as well. Here Chris is showing off a Frosty he dipnetted in the Alpha 10 Pond.
Tom 'Hambone' Hamlin, a Fort Stewart Biologist who has worked on the base for many years, is showing of the first Flatwoods Salamander he has ever detected.
Rob Tiffin is perfect field pose
Next steps: In the upcoming week we will be building an indoor rainchamber/mesocosm for the Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders we collected at Fort Stewart. This will be an indoor rearing and breeding enclosure complete with an upland, wetland, and ecotone mimicking the natural habitat of the Coastal Plain. The hydroperiod and photoperiod (as well as other climatic parameters) will be fully controllable to endure healthy growth and optimal breeding conditions when the salamanders are ready in 2-3 years.

This indoor system was made possible by the generous donations from Zilla and the Joyce Tillman Trust.

Rob with a Little Grass Frog (Pseudacris occularis)
One of my favorite bufonids — the Oak Toad (Anaxyrus quercicus)