Herp Atlas Newsletter Spring 1995
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HERP ATLAS NEWSLETTER
New York State
Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project
Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
SPRING 1995 NUMBER 1
Working Toward a Goal
The objective of the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas is to document the distribution of all species of amphibians and reptiles found in New York by 1999. This project began in 1990 as a mole salamander study. In that first year, the focus was on Ambystomid salamanders, but many volunteers indicated a willingness to contribute records for all species of herps. To date the atlas has almost 500 active volunteers and over 7,000 species records entered into the database. We also have a backlog of a couple thousand records to enter, primarily from 1990 and 1991 when we used a different report form.
Reports from 1990 to 1999 are considered to represent the current distribution of New York's amphibians and reptiles. We also are collecting records from before 1990 which will constitute the historic distribution. Historic records are being collected from museums, literature and unpublished field notes. If you have any pre-1990 records, please transfer them to herp cards and send them along to us.
If we are able to get complete coverage of the state, we will have reports from nearly 1,000 atlas blocks. To date, at least one report has been submitted from each of 599 blocks and one block has 33 species reported. We haven't yet set a reporting goal, but we expect 40 species to be reported from some blocks. Others, however, especially in the northern part of the state and Long Island, may only have 20 species. Some species are notably hard to find, such as the worm snake and the stinkpot, and therefore are rarely reported. To date, we have not received a single report of longtail salamander.
Focus on Frogs
Take a look at the maps below showing where spring peepers and wood frogs have been reported. Pretty surprising, isn't it, since these common species should be found in just about every town in the state! That's why we would like to ask you to give special attention to reporting these forgotten critters. This season, make it a point to locate all species of frogs, whether by seeing adults or tadpoles, hearing calls or finding egg masses. Also, be sure to keep a lookout for salamanders, turtles, snakes and lizards.
The Life of a Herp Atlas Card
What happens to your herp cards when you send them in? Survey cards are subjected to a series of steps to ensure that the records we accept are complete and accurate. The first step is proofreading. If all of the necessary information is not provided, we may contact the observer by telephone or letter. An observer may also be asked for more information if the species reported appears to be out of its normal range, or if it is a particularly rare species.
Next, the "detailed location," is used to locate the exact site of the observation on a map (we use and recommend DeLorme's New York State Atlas and Gazetteer). The proofreader makes sure that the town, county and quad have been filled in properly.
The card is then entered into the atlas computer database, a specialized program set up on FoxPro. This program allows us to store every piece of information on the card. This information can then be manipulated to produce a variety of interesting and informative reports.
When a thousand or so records have been added to the database, they are printed out. Each printout is then matched with the survey card from which the information came and corrections are made directly on the printout, which is then used to make corrections to the database. The herp survey card is then marked as having been double-checked and is stored in a permanent file.
Blue Card Blues
Just a reminder on the proper way to fill out herp cards. Some of the problem spots are:
Date and Observer: These 2 categories are sometimes not filled out, especially when an atlaser sends in several cards at once. Also, dates such as "Spring" or "August" do not provide enough information to be included in the database.
Town: Look closely at your gazeteer for town borders. The name appears in capital letters, while the various villages within the town appear in lowercase letters.
Quad: The atlas project is using the 7.5 minute topographic quadrangles as established by the U.S. Geologic Survey. Tiny tick marks (look closely!) on each page of the DeLorme atlas identify each quad. The name of the quad can be found by using the topo quad index (contact us if you need one).
Detailed Location: This field should describe an area in such a way that anyone can locate it on a map. Intersections of roads, bodies of water, mountains and villages work the best. Good examples: "Route 14 between Route 357 and Willard School Road" or " south end of Bonner Lake (2 miles west of village of Fullerville)."
Verification Codes: There are two categories for verifying your herp record: (1) Method of Documentation and (2) Type of Evidence. Please be sure to include at least one code from each category.
Species: Only submit records for species that you can identify with 100% certainty. Each species should be recorded only once on any one card. Multiple individuals should be noted in the "Notes" section.
Keep those cards coming...the more the better!! Our goal for 1995 is to collect 10,000 records. If you would like extra copies of the volunteer instructions for yourself or for friends, please contact us.
1994 Interim Reports
The herp atlas staff was very busy early this year entering the data from your 1994 herp cards and compiling interim reports. We would now like to make this information available to you. Here's a run-down on what has been produced:
- Species Distribution Maps - A New York map for each species indicates the blocks in which that species has been reported thus far. See the examples of species maps on page 1 and summary map on this page.
- Species Reported by County and Town - This report lists which species have been reported in each town in New York. The towns are listed by the county in which they occur.
- Species Reported by County, Town and Quad - A more specific version of the previous report, this report lists the species which have been reported in each quad in New York.
Do you wonder what species have been reported from the area in which you work? We will be glad to send you a report. This will guide you in filling in some of the blanks which have shown up on the map. Please send requests to: New York State Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.
by Al Breisch
We've grown a lot since 1990, but with very little funding. I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize all the folks who have helped out in this great effort.
Thanks to Gene McCaffrey who encouraged me to start the atlas without waiting for "official" approval, which got the ball rolling. The first two years, my daughters, Ariana and Kirstin helped with folding letters, stuffing envelopes and attaching address labels. John Ozard contributed his expertise to develop the computer database and to prepare progress reports. Mark Fitzsimmons reviewed and commented on the format of the survey cards and instructions to the volunteers.
Mary Bailey, Marla Briggs, Tammy Stalioritis, Lorraine Connor, Donna Dyer and Sandy Miller all assisted with data entry and proof reading records. Walt Sabin also did a lot of proof reading. For 3 months, Alison Preville was hired as a clerk and worked to get us caught up with the large backlog of survey cards. Kim Hunsinger has worked for a year keeping up with the day to day tasks of coordinating the atlas project.
Finally, grants from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Federal Aid to Endangered Species have provided support for the atlas and this newsletter. But, most of all, we wouldn't have anything to report were it not for all of the enthusiastic volunteers submitting cards...Thanks to everyone!
NYS Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project
Bureau of Wildlife
Albany, NY 12233-4754