Salamanders, Students and Scientists: Everyone Wins

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Amphibians breathe through their skin so they are quickly affected by pollution and changes in their environment. Also, because of their life cycles, they have to interact with different habitats–water and land. Therefore, scientists like to study them because they often are key indicators of the environmental health of a particular area.

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The Headwaters Salamander Project provides a way for local high school students to help scientists monitor amphibians. The students help adult scientists weigh and measure salamanders who live in certain areas of the Headwater Forest.


When Haley Pinochi began teaching science at Saint Bernards High School in Eureka, she wanted the kids to experience science not just read about it in a text book. So every other week, her class makes an 11 mile round trip hike and bike to Headwaters Forest where they pull back cover boards, weigh and measure tiny salamanders, and record that information for scientists with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

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“We’ve been collecting data on two species of salamander in the Headwaters forest for two years now,” said Haley Pinochi, a science teacher at St. Bernards. Her class and students at Fortuna’s East High collect data from 22 sites.

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Each site has six coverboards. East High Students helped design and manufacture the coverboards. St. Bernards visits six sites along the Elk River and East High visits four in the Salmon Creek Watershed area of Headwaters. Two BLM scientists collect data at the remaining sites.

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The project, Pinochi said, is great for the students. “It helps get the kids out doing raw science in the field.”   photo 5 (1)Information is collected in both old-growth and second-growth forests so that the data can be compared and then analyzed.

Students learn science and math as well as to appreciate the natural world, scientists get help collecting data, and, hopefully, the information collected, will help maintain healthy habitats for all creatures including salamanders.

One big win for the world!
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  • My grandson and I used to go salamander and scorpion hunting. There are salamanders under almost every rock, and a scorpion under the bark of every rotten log on the north facing forest floor.

  • Newts are better. Newts are the best. California newts rule.

  • There is a species of giant salamanders closely related to the Japanese variety, which all come from a previously unknown landmass lost to us somewhere in the pacific during the last glacial melt. These salamanders where seen here in the Klamath River area in the 1800 by two expeditions which never found hard evidence. However I have seen a dead one up on a grow last year near happy camp.

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