It is amphibian monitoring time. Amphibian monitoring is one of the high priority vital signs selected the Gulf Coast Network GULN. These animals are known for their broadly sensitive to environmental change, which makes them a great biological indicator for park health. Amphibians have permeable skin, and some species have an aquatic life stage, making them susceptible to water and air pollution. By monitoring the abundance and diversity of the amphibian species, we can detect signs of a collapsing environment and propose changes before it is too late.
The Antonio Missions National Historical Park (SAAN) is located in the westernmost part of the GULN rage. You can find more information about the park at “https://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm.” Here is a picture of one site where amphibian monitoring is done.
The tan and gray squares are coverboards, made of plywood and zinc respectively, that are used as artificial refuges. They provide shelter for amphibian, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, and rodents’ species. Some sites, there are also PVC pipes attached to trees, and those provide shelter for tree frogs, lizards, skinks, and unfortunately for me, roaches (I not a fan of roaches). You can find more detail information about the amphibian monitoring of the Gulf Coast Network at “https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/guln/monitor/amphibian_reptile.cfm.”
The sampling occurs every month, during that, the coverboards are flipped, any amphibians and/or reptiles species presents are counted and identified. You can see on the pictures below an example of how that is done. William Finney, the field biologist of the Gulf Coast Network was the crew leader (green shirt). I participates as data recorder and flipper (the person who “flips” the coverboard). Dr. Marvin Lutnesky, Chair of the Department of Science and Mathematics of the Texas A&M University – San Antonio, also participated in this sampling event and can be seen flipping a coverboard in the third picture. Accompanying Dr. Lutnesky was Dr. Kenwyn Cradock from Eastern New Mexico University, whom I will be forever grateful for taking those great pictures below.
There are nine known amphibian species at the park. The two most common are the Coastal Plain Toad (Incilius nebulifer) and a non-native species. Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides). During this event, we saw an Eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) crossing the sidewalk in one of the park trails. These are venomous snakes endemic to the southeastern United States. They are known for the color pattern consisting of red and black rings separated by narrow yellow rings. A good way to remember the color pattern to know if it is poison or not is by a simple rhyme: “Red next to black, safe from attack, red next to yellow, you’re a dead fellow”.
Eastern coral snake – Micrurus fulvius
We did see red next to yellow, but we kept our distance and we did not end up as dead fellow. For that I’m very grateful.