Understanding Amphibian Biology
Understanding and Identifying all life stages
Understanding Their Habitat and Threats
Science Center Objects
Patuxent has a strength in Herpetology, with an emphasis on amphibian work: we manage the Northeast Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) and we specialize in the taxonomy, status, and distribution of amphibians – as well as reptiles – with our museum-based team at the National Museum of Natural History.
The Department of the Interior's US Geological Survey Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) is designed to determine where populations of amphibians are present, to monitor specific apex populations, and to investigate potential causes of amphibian declines, diseases, and malformations.
Currently, 90 amphibian species are recognized in the Northeast, including 59 species in the Order Caudata (salamanders) and 31 species in the Order Anura (frogs and toads). Almost half of the amphibians in the Northeast are salamanders within the family Plethodontidae. Amphibians are found in all physiographic regions of the Northeast, from sea level to the heights of the Appalachian, Adirondack, and White Mountains. The endangered Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is a focal species in the central Appalachians.
Disease in amphibian populations can have a range of effects, from devastating declines following introduction of a novel pathogen to recurring breakout events on a landscape. Elucidating mechanisms underlying the effects of diseases on amphibian populations is crucial to help managers make appropriate decisions to achieve management goals for amphibians.
In many National Parks organisms at high elevation are severely threatened and may be sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture gradients in the Appalachians, which may result in species extirpation in high elevation habitats. Many species are specifically adapted to the unusual conditions typical of high elevation sites; risks of extirpation increase as conditions change. Compounding the risk is the extraordinarily small range of many high elevation species; such is the case with the endangered Shenandoah salamander.
The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) was a collaborative citizen science effort between the US Geological Survey (USGS) and 26 partners (state agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations) for monitoring calling amphibian populations over much of the eastern and central United States. Initiated in 1997, in response to needs set forth by the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF) in 1994, NAAMP was designed to provide scientifically and statistically defensible, long-term distribution and trend data for calling frog and toad populations at both the state and regional level.
Amphibian & Reptile Collections at the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of Natural History
The Herpetology Project, the most recent addition to the Unit, originated in 1972. Roy W. McDiarmid is the Project Leader. The North American collection of reptiles and amphibians contains about 390,900 specimens. This portion of the National Collection is completely computerized; electronic copies on diskette or compact disks, or hard copy reports can be produced in response to requests for information about holdings. The collection is represented primarily by alcohol-preserved specimens, but also includes an extensive skeleton collection (7,645 specimens) as well as ancillary collections of formalin-preserved amphibian larvae (4,632 specimens), cleared and stained specimens (2,638), and smaller collections of histological microscope slides, tapes of vocalizations, and color transparencies of live animals. The type collection contains 12,407 specimens of which about 62% are from North America.