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Mission: to unite as citizens and actively engage in the preservation of the Spring Creek Watershed.
Salamander Outing, April 25
Spring Creek Coalition (SCC) hosted amphibian expert Ron Bonett on April 25th for a Salamander Outing. Bonett, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Tulsa, has been studying these magnificent animals for more than 15 years. His most interesting subject is the Oklahoma Salamander, a species that can take on very different body forms.
We started the day with a 40 minute presentation by Dr. Bonett at the Peggs Community Center.
We learned that the geology of where salamanders live greatly influences their body forms and life cycles. In some streams larvae of the Oklahoma Salamander undergo metamorphosis and live their adult life on land. In other streams, like Spring Creek, they forgo metamorphosis and reach adulthood without ever leaving the water.
Spring Creek geology consists of silica-containing limestone that doesn't dissolve easily. It breaks down into same-size pieces of chert gravel providing spaces where water and animals can survive. When portions of the creek dry up, salamanders still have access to subterranian water.
Bonett passed around samples of chert gravel and, for comparison, gravel formed from clastics - rocks that break down into different-size pieces that compact and provide no spaces. Bonett also had a microscope set up so that we could see the vertebrae of Oklahoma Salamanders. OK Salamanders have extra vertebrae which help them swim better. They are long and slender which allows them to swim eel-like through chert crevices.
We spent the second hour of our "Salamander Outing" at the creek.
We dug in gravel and found an Oklahoma Salamander right away. "Wow. He's longer and thinner than I expected," noted one SCC member. The water was crystal clear and we could easily see the chert gravel and spaces it formed.
Cheryl Cheadle, SCC Board member and Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Blue Thumb program, led the group in seining activities. We uncovered crayfish, Madtom catfish, helgramites and more. Six-year old Layne Spencer had on his high boots, but when his mom Jessica looked around she exclaimed "He's wet up to his T-shirt!"
Sydney Van Wyk of the Tahlequah Daily Press and Kely Bostian, Outdoor writer of the Tulsa World took pictures and conducted interviews.
Ron Bonett grew up in Pennsylvania and has been interested in amphibians ever since he found his first red-backed salamander in a Philadelphia woodlot at the age of 10. His research combines two of his greatest passions: amphibians and spending time in upland streams. Thank you, Ron, for leading us on a magnificent indoor/outdoor outing.