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Endangered Salamanders of Pelee Island Focus of New Funding for Trent University Researchers

Species at Risk Stewardship Fund supports Dr. Dennis Murray & collaborators in assessment of population status and threats to one of Canada’s rarest salamanders

A funding boost from the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund (SARSF), to the tune of $187,157 over three years, will help Trent University researchers use state-of-the-art methods to examine the population size, genetics, and movement ecology of one of Canada’s rarest salamanders – the small-mouthed and unisexual salamanders on Pelee Island.

The new funding follows three years of SARSF-funded research on the unique salamander complex that was previously awarded to Dr. Dennis Murray, a Canada research chair in Integrative Wildlife Conservation and professor at Trent University, and his team. Collaborators on the project include Dr. Jim Bogart at University of Guelph, and Jeff Hathaway from Scales Nature Park.

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount over the last three years,” says Dr. Thomas Hossie a post-doctoral fellow at Trent who has been spearheading the research on this population of the small-mouthed salamander restricted to Pelee Island, and listed as endangered under Canada’s Species-At-Risk Act (SARA). “Our team has identified previously unknown habitat, established a long-term monitoring program, characterized the genetic composition of the population, and generated some of the first population estimates for these animals.”

The newly-funded work will continue to provide critical information about the salamander’s population size, genetic diversity, habitat needs, and threats. Prof. Murray suggests that this new funding will allow his team to capitalize on the foundational knowledge gained over the last three years and will contribute importantly to the conservation of these species in Canada, while also reinforcing Trent’s role as a leader in wildlife conservation.

As part of the research, the Trent team captures salamanders and takes genetic samples, which ultimately serve to identify the species of captured individuals as well as estimate their population size. Importantly, the team’s research indicates that small-mouthed salamanders and blue-spotted salamanders in many areas on the island may have declined compared to historical estimates. Over the next three years the team will further quantify habitat use and track salamander movement to examine patterns of population connectivity, which will set a strong foundation for robust assessment of their population sustainability.

Posted on May 4, 2018