Citizen-scientists explore Selu Conservancy

Selu-Wood Frog-promo box

Wood Frog, a species typically found at the Selu Conservancey

The snakes were scarce at Selu last weekend, but that didn't stop one group of citizen-scientists from exploring Radford University's 385-acre outdoor classroom.

A mix of almost two dozen RU faculty, students, alumni and members of the public participated in the two-day Herpetological (Reptile) Inventory of Selu Conservancy on Friday, June 13.

Because of the hot and dry conditions, amphibians and reptiles were hard to locate in the lush habitat, but there were no "dry" moments, said Assistant Professor of Biology Matt Close.

"Participants had a good time, and it provided unique opportunities to share some of the great things about Radford and Selu Conservancy," Close said.

A Friday workshop kicked off the weekend of events for the 21 citizen-scientists in attendance.

Participants traveled to different work stations, where RU students taught them some of the most important features distinguishing different species of reptiles and amphibians. Their knowledge was later tested when they had to identify eight live specimens on display.

That night, many joined in a late hike to the Little River in which they encountered a Northern ringneck snake – a local species. Bullfrog callings filled the air, and fireflies put on "quite a show," Close said.

Activities continued into Saturday when a dozen participants spent the majority of the morning turning over rocks and logs searching for reptiles - but to no avail.

"I personally wished that we had found more animals," Close said. "But this is the reality of doing scientific research - data are data regardless of whether they end up being what we expected or hoped for."

While the reptiles retreated, John Kell of RU's Biology Department pointed out Selu's abundance of plant and bird species.

Events concluded Saturday night with a cookout, "a great way to end the day of hard work and to celebrate some of the great things about RU," Close said.

"I think that this event did an outstanding job of bringing together faculty, students, citizen-scientists and the general public, and this was the major goal," Close said. "Selu Conservancy provides a unique opportunity for these types of interactions, and I hope that we can continue to do things like this."

Jun 25, 2014