Something About Salamanders

Something About Salamanders
Posted on 10/21/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Something About Salamanders Did you know that salamanders are a great indicator of our environment’s health? Ms. Librizzi and some of her students are doing their part to study, collect, record, and report data on the salamander population on Collier’s campus all in the name of climate change!

Ms. Librizzi, a National Geographic Certified Educator, attended a program at Montclair University where she was introduced to Dr. Paola Dolcemascolo, an Assistant Professor at Berkeley College, who represented a program called SPARCNet (the Salamander Population and Adaption Research Collaboration Network). SPARCNet is a regional initiative designed to advance our understanding of environmental change on salamander ecology. Using the expertise of collaborators, the research spans genetics, physiology, behavior, and demography to investigate salamander responses to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other habitat features.

SPARCNet also works to develop meaningful curricula that engage students in real research. Adding this into the classroom is not only critical for improving science literacy but in preparing the next generation of scientists. In addition, Red-backed salamanders are one of the best indicators of our environment’s health.

Ms. Librizzi first introduced this project during the JET (Job Experience Training) program in the summer of 2019. Mr. Staggard’s Building Trades classes built 30 12”x12” wooden boards that Ms. Librizzi’s students placed in 3 study areas in the Collier woods--an area near the stream, an area with leaf debris, and an area without leaf debris. Students go and collect data throughout the school year and summer months and compare and contract these study sites and the salamander population. This data is then compiled and entered into the SPARCNet website.

Students are learning how to collect and analyze data, form conclusions, and use their results to contribute to a larger study. They are also learning how to contribute to a database, improving their science literacy, and collaborate with each other all while helping to make a difference in regards to climate change. 

“It’s really cool just finding them. The thrill of finding them is exciting. You’re discovering wildlife,” stated Zach, a sophomore at Collier High School. The students are also enjoying researching all different types of salamanders. “My favorite is the Chinese Giant Salamander. They can weigh up to 110 pounds and be over 5 feet long!” exclaimed Brian, another Collier High School student. “We also are finding that they like to be under sticks and leaves in a moist environment," Brian continued.

To date, Ms. Librizzi’s ecstatic students have found over 16 red-backed salamanders and 6 woodland salamanders in Collier’s woods and still counting!