Saving Salamanders


By Todd Amacker, Tennessee, USA:

Beginning in the 1980s, emerging pathogens have contributed to a global decline in amphibian populations. As a result of disease and other factors, amphibians are the most imperiled terrestrial vertebrate class on Earth. With both ranavirus (a genus of viruses in the family Iridoviridae) and chytrid fungus (a fungus in the phylum Chytridiomycota) being two of the biggest culprits, biologists and veterinarians are investigating the prevalence and transmission of these pathogens in amphibian populations all over the world.

In the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, researchers from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville have been studying ranavirus and chytrid fungus prevalence for the last decade in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Known as the ‘Salamander Capital of the World’, this relatively small area contains some thirty species of salamanders, several of which are endemic to the park itself. This makes amphibian research in the Southern Appalachians vital when attempting to understand the global significance of certain pathogens like ranavirus and chytrid fungus, which in general, remain understudied.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, vast swathes of the Smoky Mountains had been logged. Many native species, including amphibians, were decimated as a result. After being decreed a National Park in 1934, the Smokies made an extraordinary recovery and are once again intact and forested with large, mature trees. This has given Southern Appalachian salamanders a second chance at survival. With the help of dedicated scientists and concerned citizens, salamanders in Tennessee and North Carolina are fighting to avoid what has been called the Sixth Mass Extinction.

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Okinawa Neighbours

MYN Contributor Shawn Miller has been photographing many of the species living in Okinawa, Japan over the past several months. Here is a selection of some of his discoveries photographed in the Meet Your Neighbours Field Studio.

I’m really proud to be included as one of the featured photographers on Paul Hassell‘s excellent new project ALIVE. My video interview was released this afternoon. If you’re interested, you can check it out by visiting the link below and listen to me ramble on a bit about why I love being a nature photographer.-Clay

Clay Bolt – Seeing with Fresh Eyes from Light Finds on Vimeo.

Many thousands of wild plant and animal species live in the Anacostia River watershed, right in the heart of the Washington DC metro region, including Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Meet some of this urban wildlife in this video made for the Anacostia Project as featured by contributor Krista Schlyer.

Untamed Science recently featured Meet Your Neighbours contributor Neil Losin of Day’s Edge Productions. In this short video, Neil demonstrates the MYN Field-Studio Technique with Colorado Wildflowers. Check it out!

MYN Contributor Neil Losin and his fellow Day’s Edge Productions team member Nate Dappen recently returned from Formentera, Spain on an expedition to document the Ibiza Wall Lizard. Their images will be used in a beautifully illustrated book entitled “The Symbol,” which is intended to raise awareness and ultimately lead to preservation of wall lizard habitat and the continued survival of the species. We’re so pleased to share this video, not only because of the valuable work that Neil and Nate are conducting, but also because they used the MYN field-studio technique during their trip to showcase color variation among individuals.

From the Day’s Edge Productions blog:

“As evolutionary biologists it fascinates us that these lizard populations are so close, yet look so different. The situation on Esparte and Espartar exemplifies the mysteriously high color diversity among island populations of this species, which has some of the highest color diversity observed among all reptiles. Our understanding of how these uniquely color populations evolved to be so different is poor. Nonetheless, one of our goals on this expedition was to capture, photographically, the color diversity of these lizards among island populations. To do this, we used a technique called “Meet Your Neighbours.”

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Niall Benvie recently shared why it is important for people to get to know their local wildlife during a recent BioBlitz in Bristol, UK. In this clip, you can also see how Niall uses a “clear set” technique in this video to photograph insects with fine details. By suspending the clear plastic set over a sheet of white Perspex (or Acrylite) he is able to control the amount of light coming onto the subject, which allows the delicate form of legs and antennae to be preserved. The BioBlitz, which was held in a cemetery revealed many species including the “Thick-Thighed Flower Beetle,” a name which is incredibly fun to say!

Meet Your Neighbours co-founder Clay Bolt recently had a chance to discuss the project with The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Photography, Mark Godfrey. If you’re interested in learning more about what MYN is all about how the photos are made, take a moment to watch this short video.

A collection of some of the amazing animals photographed so far by the Meet Your Neighbours team, an international environmental photography project, developed to encourage an appreciation of the wildlife within our own communities. Featuring amazing photos by Niall Benvie, Paul Harcourt Davies, Piotr Naskrecki, Paul Marcellini, Clay Bolt, Seth Patterson, Sandesh Kadur, Mac Stone, Carsten Krieger, David Hunter, John Tiddy, Dirk Funhoff, Marko Masterl, Jerry Monkman, and Denis Palanque.

A quick overview on how Meet Your Neighbours co-founder Clay Bolt photographs grasshoppers and other insects for the project.

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The MYN Mission

Meet Your Neighbours is a worldwide photographic initiative dedicated to reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps – and enriching their lives in the process. These creatures and plants are vital to people: they represent the first, and for some, the only contact with wild nature we have.