Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas


Herp Atlas Update
Thank You Volunteers
Coverage Map
Steering Committee Meeting
Volume 1: Number 1
October 1999
As the first of five herp seasons comes to a close we are encouraging all of you to SUBMIT YOUR DATA NOW!

Once all of the records are in then we can begin to assess this year's coverage and plan next year's season. If you have yet to register as an atlasser it is not too late, simply mail in a card with your information and we will enter it in the computer for you, or register yourself online at:

Some herps are still active this time of year as they move into overwintering habitats. Data from the whole length of the herp season is important for us so please continue to record any fall herp activity and send it in.

The herp season can start as early as the end of April or as late as the end of May depending on where you are in the province and on how early the spring arrives. So, as soon as the first peep is heard next spring, be on the look out for amphibians and reptiles. If there are any updates or new information we will be in contact with you in March of next year when our new coordinator starts. Please be in touch with us if you require additional cards or have any questions.

Look for our map search page on our web site. This map search will enable atlassers to query the database for any species, date, map region (according to mapbook square), life stage, or atlasser number. Atlassers will be able to see what areas of the province have already been searched and thus direct their efforts accordingly.

The NS Herp Atlas is off to a successful start thanks to the tremendous volunteer support and interest. As of October 15, 1999 we have 47 people officially registered as atlassers and an additional 64 people who have expressed interest and are on our mailing list.

This year we have established our Atlassers guide, please look for the new edition, printed on blue paper (this will be sent out to you, and is on the web site), a water-proof colour species identification guide, and a Nova Scotia Herp Atlas web site. We are excited about our web site: and everyone involved in the project should know that our online database is one of the most advanced on the web.

You are able to search for both historic and current atlas records by mapbook square, by year, by month, species, life stage, and atlasser number.

Atlassers have submitted 207 records over this year and during the 1998 pilot season. Of these records 142 are sightings of amphibians, including 123 frogs and toads and 19 salamanders and newts. There were 65 reptile sightings submitted, including 28 turtles and 37 snakes.
There have been 13 starred (S) species or colour forms reported. Starred herp species are those that are rare or have a limited distribution and therefore are of particular interest for conservation and monitoring plans.

Wood Turtles
Data collection by volunteer atlassers this year has resulted in the discovery of two additional locations of Wood Turtles in Nova Scotia. The Wood Turtles were reported in northern NS and in one case females were seen nesting. This is exciting because it demonstrates the value and importance of the atlas project. New locations of populations could be found for other species, and could be included in monitoring or conservation efforts.

Non-native turtles
We have asked atlassers to report sightings of non-native turtles because there are some non-native species kept as pets and then occasionally released into the wild by the owners. In September this year we had a red eared turtle reported in Colchester County. Non-native species can be very harmful to native species and can cause considerable disruption to an entire ecosystem. If you have seen pet turtles in the wild in the past it would be great for the atlas if you could return to that area and document this for the purposes of the atlas.

The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Newsletter                                                                                               Page 1
1. Establish a database of herp information for use in conservation planning and land use management
2. Publish a hard copy atlas with five years of data on the distribution of species
3. Increase public awareness and appreciation of herps
4. Establish the infrastructure to continue long-term monitoring of herps in Nova Scotia.

The data collected by the NS Herp Atlas project will be used by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre (AC CDC) in developing conservation strategies and providing information to companies for environmental impact assessments.

With the end of the herp season comes the end of the coordinator position that has been held by Samara Eaton since May 1999. A new coordinator will be in place in March 2000 for the start of the next season. With this loss of a coordinator for the winter months may come a decrease in the response time to your inquiries, emails, and phone calls. Your questions and comments are very important to us - so please continue sending them along, but be aware that there may well be a slight delay in the response. When emailing us please use the email address or leave a message at (902) 585-1313.

Marine turtles are monitored through a program called the Nova Scotia Leatherback Turtle Working Group. Please pass on any information of sightings or strandings of marine turtles to 1-888-729-4667.

In September this year this group satellite tagged a male Leatherback Turtle (Sherman) off the coast of Northern Cape Breton Island. This is the first time this has ever been achieved. Take a look at where Sherman is moving at http://www.cwf- sherman.htm

The NS Herp Atlas volunteers come from all over the province and from many different organizations. Naturalist organizations within the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists have spread the word of the project among their membership and other individuals who are avid naturalists have also joined. The NS Museum of Natural History has been involved and is promoting it to their visitors. Field staff from the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources are contributing to the project, and both Kejimkujik National Park and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park are involved as well. University biology professors have spread the word to their students and other faculty and staff. Many of the watershed monitoring organizations, including the four Nova Scotia ACAP sites (the Atlantic Coastal Action Programs) and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association's Adopt-a-Stream members have also joined the project.

We are continually expanding our volunteer base so please contact us if you know of other organizations that you feel could contribute to the project.

There are 47 people who are officially registered as atlassers and we would like to say Thank You for your involvement in the project thus far and we look forward to your participation in the future. The following is a list of people who have registered as atlassers. If you would like to know of others who are atlassing in your area please feel free to contact us and we can help put people in touch with each other.

Doug Archibald Tom Herman Jeffie McNeil Fred Scott
Dan Banks James Hirtle Pam Mills Dave Shutler
Stephen Barbour Matt Holder Adele Mullie Brian Starzomski
Calvin Brennan Andrea Kinsley Carl Munden Ellen Stoddard
John Brownlee Patricia Kendrick Joe Nocera Phil Taylor
Peter Eaton Randy Lauff Jeff Ogden Sonja Teichert
Samara Eaton Kim Lipscomb Brooke Oland Jean Timpa
Mark Elderkin Nancy MacLean Terry Paquet Barbara Volhard
John Gilhen Harriet MacMillan Linda Payzant Robert Walsh
Ross Hall Ian McKay Peter Payzant Amy Weston
Leah Hagreen Ken McKenna Mark Pulsifer Martin Willison
Andrew Hebda Pat McLarty Peter Richard

The data that you collect for Nova Scotia will help provide a better understanding of the status of our herps. This atlas data will provide a baseline from which further monitoring progress can develop. Data collected on rare and threatened species will be used immediately by the Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Data Centre for groups conducting environmental impact assessments.

Over the last 8 years there has been growing concern over amphibian declines, and also reptile declines. There are numerous potential contributors to these declines, many of which are human-induced. Scientists from around the world have compiled information on human threats to amphibians and reptiles including; habitat destruction, alteration, fragmentation, barriers to movement, roadkills, pesticides, fertilizers, acid rain, and the pet trade.

Increasing awareness of these threats can lead to a better understanding of how we as individuals can impact populations of other organisms.

The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Newsletter                                                                                               Page 2

The map below shows the amount of coverage (the number of species recorded per mapbook square) as of October 15th 1999. Each circle represents data submitted for that square and the number in the circle gives the number of species so far recorded for that square. Thus far only 74 of 650 squares (11.4%) have any species recorded. The coverage goal of the atlas is to have at least 75% of the expected species recorded for each square. Expected species includes all common species (i.e. not starred) and for the majority of the squares this will be 13 of 17 expected species.

Herp Atlas Coverage as of October 15th 1999: 207 Records
[Click the image to enlarge] 

True "atlassing" involves actively searching for herps and recording the amount of time spent looking. Incidental records provide valuable information for the atlas and will appear as data points on the final atlas maps; however, atlassing is what we REALLY encourage all volunteers to do. From this map we can see that many of the data points are clustered. This clustering of observations is to be expected when such a high proportion of these records are incidental (128 of the 207 records (62%)). Incidental records tend to be in locations where individuals would regularly spend time, such as, near their home or near for example a national park.

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For this project to be successful, not only do we need the immense volunteer support from all of you but we need multiple partners. So far there are seven donors of in-kind and financial support. The steering committee for the NS Herp Atlas project consists of ten individuals, at least one representative from each of the partners. This committee oversees the NS Herp Atlas project.

· Fred Scott - Acadia University's Wildlife Museum - Chair
· Rob Rainer - Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center
· Kate Bredin - Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center
· Dr. Phil Taylor - Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network, Acadia University
· Dr. Tom Herman - Center for Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Acadia University and Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists
· Debra Burleson - Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
· Andrew Hebda - Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
· Dr. Sherman Boates - Wildlife Division of Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
· Mark Elderkin - Wildlife Division of Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
· Samara Eaton - Nova Scotia Herp Atlas 1999 project coordinator

The committee held its inaugural meeting in July 1999 at Acadia University. The summary highlights the administrative and organizational issues that were covered at this meeting.

Project Coordinator: It was agreed that it is necessary to have a project coordinator nine months of the year from March 1st - December 1st and that the duration of the position will be evaluated on an annual basis.

Coverage Goals: The coverage goals were evaluated and it was agreed that a minimum of 3 non-adjacent squares per page was an appropriate goal. However, we modified the criteria for a square to be considered complete and decided that 75% of the expected species per square must be identified within a square (expected species includes all common species (i.e. not starred)).

Project Funding: There is a continual need to secure additional project funding to ensure a coordinator for the duration of this 1999 season and partners for the 5 year duration of the project.

Volunteer Training: We must contact any other volunteer organizations that could potentially get involved. We discussed the importance of volunteer training and that we will have training sessions in place next year.

Verification of Sightings: It is important to ensure that there is a process in place for the verification of sightings. It may be possible to develop a network of volunteer regional coordinators/contacts who could verify sightings for us and encourage participants in their area.

Data Requests: We discussed access to data, and the process through which requests for data will be handled. This is a topic that must be taken very seriously because we are dealing with precise location data for species that are rare or threatened.

Maritime-wide Atlas: We discussed the possibility of expanding the atlas to become a Maritime-wide Atlas including New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We agreed in principle, however, decided more discussion would be necessary. In October this was discussed with representatives from NB and PEI and although it was decided that it would be a good idea, issues such as asynchronous starting times and limited resources made it not possible at this time. At this time, PEI and NB are considering the possibility of initiating their own projects and we have offered in-kind assistance to help them get started.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments for the NS Herp Atlas project please be in touch with us. 

The Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas Newsletter                                                                                               Page 4

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