• Local herpetological knowledge in the North

      Ream, Joshua Taylor; Toowóo, Xíxch'i; Lopez, Juan Andres; Gerlach, Scott Craig; Schneider, William; Carothers, Courtney (2016-05)
      Amphibians are important components of ecological communities and of human cultures, even in high northern latitudes where species diversity for this group is low. Despite their ecological and cultural value, and their ability to serve as indicators of ecosystem health, information on the biology of amphibians in Alaska and high latitude segments of their geographic range is limited. By combining local knowledge of herpetology and citizen science approaches, it is possible to circumvent some of the logistical constraints of research in a vast, sparsely populated region to enhance scientific understanding of amphibian populations. The first objective of this investigation is to document the nature and extent of local herpetological knowledge within a rural Alaska community, including perceptions of local human-amphibian relationships. Secondly, this study explores various methods of obtaining this knowledge and engaging the public in citizen science programs for the production of herpetological data. Finally, this study examines the species diversity, distribution and population trends of amphibians in the Stikine River region of Alaska. I demonstrate that local herpetological knowledge, when combined with standard biological techniques, can be used to better understand amphibian populations in Alaska. This study documented 3,645 amphibian observations in the state, including 2,320 observations contributed by citizen scientists and members of the public. Six native species and three non-native species were included in these observations. I found that each method of data acquisition resulted in varying degrees of efficiency and resulting contributions, and that members of the public were generally willing to share their knowledge of amphibians on local landscapes. The nature and extent of contributor knowledge varied, though many participants provided detailed information on past observations. Many respondents also perceive amphibians as important to local ecosystems and human groups. Contributor observations, combined with data from historic and contemporary herpetological inventories, substantially increase scientific knowledge of amphibians in the Stikine River region of Alaska, and more generally across the state.