WISE, Va. — A herpetologist has conducted extensive research into a rare type of salamander found in Southwest Virginia.
Jack Wayland, a 2013 graduate of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, recently completed his undergraduate research on Aneides aeneus, an elusive lungless creature known as a green salamander, according to a written statement from the college.
“I was surprised at how abundant they were on High Knob and Flag Rock,” Wayland said. “Based on the research, we believe that they like that area because of the rock outcrops and crevices. The species is declining around the nation, but not here. Many herpetologists have the green salamander on their bucket lists.”
His research could lead to developing ways to better protect the species so it can rebound and get off of several states’ endangered or rare lists, according to the statement.
Wayland, biology major, first learned of the species while taking classes taught by professor Wally Smith. He decided to participate in the fellowship in natural science program, which meant finding a solid research project. The green salamander was intriguing.
Its habitat extends from southwestern Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Alabama and Mississippi.
Wayland, from Springfield, Va., began his research by randomly marking and surveying 100 crevices weekly at Norton’s Flag Rock area. He used crevice dimensions, distance to trees, canopy cover and other factors to model the occupancy rate. He used weather factors and time of day to model probability of detecting the green salamander, according to the statement.
One of his conclusions the more it rained, the less likely it was to see the creatures. He also discovered that he was more likely to spot a green salamander in internal rock crevices rather than external rock crevices.
“I concluded that the presence and number of the green salamander is underestimated in this part of Southwest Virginia,” Wayland said. “This area could be considered a hot spot for the species, especially in areas of rock formations in places that were not heavily timbered.”