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Social science is a fast-growing approach to engaging people in nature and passing on big and important data to researchers and decision-makers. Instead of relying on some researchers to collect data, which is a huge and time-consuming task, community science projects use armies of volunteers with different levels of science – from kindergarteners to retirees – who can significantly expand their research to understand. major problems.

Throughout the northeastern United States, frogs and salamanders migrate to and from their nesting wetlands each year. These migrations tend to be intense, with most movements occurring in just a few nights; their movement is completely limited by golden conditions, which provide them with a sufficiently warm and humid environment to move safely. This means that the night temperature is above ~ 45 F and there is enough rain to wet the ground. If these factors are encountered, the movements can be explosive!

Unfortunately, this can be a major problem for migratory amphibians. First, many have to travel across roads to reach nesting wetlands; as a result, many vehicles will be hit (if you have never noticed a traveling salamander while driving, you are not alone!). If you combine the problem that many of them travel side by side, it’s possible that even one poorly timed car will bring the population closer to midnight on the last day.

Spotted salamander, photo promised by Greg LeClair

2022 was the fifth season of Maine’s Big Night. A nationwide community research project that not only focuses on keeping as many of these animals alive on their crossroads as possible, but also collects data for research and management projects. The project is run by hundreds of volunteers, the number of whom is growing every year; in 2022 alone, more than 400 people obtained the certificate and 225 submitted the data as the primary data recorder. This is almost twice the number of people reporting in the last four years!

In the world of science, and in particular in the community of science, special attention must be paid to using only high-quality data for analysis (although volunteer researchers often produce data with the same scientific rigor as professional researchers!). At the end of each season, we review the information we provide to ensure that it meets our data quality standards. Although we are still at this stage in the 2022 season, the results are unlikely to shake much from the numbers below.

This year, voluntary data recorded 8507 amphibians; that’s more than the last four years combined! Of these, 2,522 were found dead, giving us an approximate mortality rate of 29.65%. It is higher than usual; in recent years it has fluctuated between 15-25%. It is not known why this mortality rate is so high, but it may be due to the way the studies were conducted (who studied where they were studied, etc.) or to actual changes in the environment, such as an increase in the number of cars on the roads.

Interestingly, we were short of some species this year; we did not see the mink, the northern two-line salamanders or the northern salamanders – we have had a handful of them in previous years! However, we received a confirmed report of spring salamanders on Newry roads, but unfortunately this was not reported as an observation by MBN. This would be the first time for a project. There is definitely something to keep an eye on next season!

After five years of collecting data, we’re looking forward to making the best use of our data. The federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress last fall includes $ 350 million specifically for wildlife crossing facilities – structures that have the potential to reduce the problem of traffic mortality in these areas to near zero. In partnership with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), we expect to use our data to match MDOT needs (maintenance, other wildlife road mortality areas, etc.) and use this federal money to install wildlife crossings throughout the state. These infrastructure solutions may be years ahead, but the process of changing the wildlife-friendly landscape has begun!

Here’s to a very successful 2022 Maine Big Night season!

– Greg LeClair, founder of the Maine Big Night and winner of the 2022 Brookie Award

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