In the spring of 2014 AHS was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Community Environmental Education Stewardship through Youth Involvement (CEESYI) grant administered by the Alaska Forum on the Environment. This exciting opportunity allowed our organization to develop a long-term partnership with the Petersburg High School, whereby students in the Advanced Placement Biology (AP Bio) courses will annually monitor local wetlands for amphibian presence, abundance, and breeding activity!
The long-term site selected for annual monitoring is the Baseball Field Muskeg near downtown Petersburg on Mitkof Island. Thanks to the grant, the muskeg site has been added to the list of sites included in our Stikine Long-term Amphibian Monitoring Program (SLAMP). Each spring, the students will visit this site to conduct a systematic inventory of its amphibian populations. Students will also conduct basic water quality tests to monitor changes in the wetland over time. Individual students will develop their own "mini projects" involving some aspect of amphibian ecology in Alaska.
This photo is of a muskeg hole at the Baseball Field Muskegs in the spring of 2012. Local knowledge suggests that this site was once incredibly productive for amphibians, especially the Columbia Spotted Frog. In recent decades the decline has been dramatic.
To facilitate this research, AHS has created an extensive educational / sampling kit that is on semi-permanent loan to the Petersburg High School. This kit contains DVDs, books, field guides, nets, water test kits, scales, thermometers, and many other supplies to assist with expanding the students' knowledge of herpetofauna and ability to effectively engage in hands-on field activities. The kit will be periodically replenished and improved as needed and as resources permit! Furthermore, the course instructor will receive a membership in both the American Society for Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR) so that they may receive the journals, newsletters and special publications of these professional organizations.
For the first year of this program (the 2014-2015 academic year), students will participate in the systematic inventory of the Baseball Field Muskegs alongside of AHS staff in what has been termed "AmphibBlitz", an amphibian-oriented bioblitz to document all present amphibians. This will be held in conjunction with the Rainforest Festival on Sunday September 7th, and the event is open to the general public. It will be preceded by a public lecture on Alaska's Amphibians.
The CEESYI grant also allowed us to expand the student's field opportunities by allowing them to visit other SLAMP monitoring locations during the fall semester. Following the AmphibBlitz Program, students will travel with AHS staff to Chief Shakes Hot Springs, Mallard Slough, and Cheliped Bay long-term sites where they will systematically inventory for amphibians. This will allow students to witness differences in amphibian assemblages in a variety of habitats! The two-day adventure will include an overnight at base-camp near the Mallard Slough Public Use Cabin.
AHS President Joshua Ream processing a Long-toed Salamander at the Mallard Slough Cabin in the spring of 2012. This site is part of SLAMP and is located near the North Arm of the Stikine River in the Wrangell Ranger District of the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness!
And this isn't the extent of it all! After the student travel and sampling events, AHS staff will be working with the AP Bio teachers to develop curriculum that can be used throughout the academic year. We will travel to Petersburg to offer thematic place-based guest lectures and to help with the completion of student mini projects. Students will be encouraged to present their work to the public. One lucky student will travel with AHS staff to the Alaska Forum on the Environment conference in February of 2015!