Thursday, May 5, 2011

AZA Amphibian Biology and Captive Management Course: Toledo Zoo

the class receives instruction in conducting transects in the field
“Last week I attended the Amphibian Biology and Captive Management course sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  This week long course is designed to teach zoo keepers, veterinarians, and educators about the ins and outs of amphibian biology, conservation, and management in captivity.  It was held at the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio, a facility known for their commitment to amphibian conservation.

 Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma sp. cf. laterale).  Many of the Ambystoma in this region are part of a hybrid complex, with various morphs that resemble one or another of the parent species
            Topics ranged from cage-building to evolution and were taught by some heavy-weight experts.  I had a wonderful time and learned quite a bit while making connections with folks from other institutions I might not have met otherwise.  It was an intense, yet very fun week.  The amphibian facilities at Toledo are top-notch, especially their salamander room.  Tim Herman, a keeper and one of the instructors, has made some incredible advances in the captive breeding of plethodontid (lungless) salamanders, and after seeing his techniques and facilities, it’s easy to see why.

Instructor Tim Herman shows the differences between the Blue-spotted (Ambystoma laterale) and Small-mouthed (A. texanum) Salamanders.
Instructor Andy Odum shows off a Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii) that was spotted by fellow instructor Vicky Poole and captured by yours truly. 

            One of the biggest highlights was getting out in the field in northern Ohio to see some salamanders (and even one awesome snake) that I had never seen in the field.  The pictures below are from that field trip. “ — Robert Hill