Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

Salamanders: Clues to Our Environment

November 26, 2008

In this segment, we talk with Amanda Bickerstaff, a staff member at the Bronx Institute at Lehman College, and several students involved in the Salamander Project.

5 Minutes 28 Seconds

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This is Kelly Worby, a Nursing major at Lehman College. In this segment, we talk with Amanda Bickerstaff, a staff member at the Bronx Institute at Lehman College, and several students involved in the Salamander Project.

This "citizen science" project was conducted by Bronx middle schoolers who studied different factors in the ecosystem that allow salamanders to live. They discuss the importance of this study in an urban setting, where several — let's call them—"unnatural" factors — lead to changes in the ecosystem.

Why study salamanders? Because these creatures do not have lungs. Instead, they breathe through their skin and mouth membranes. This makes them an excellent bio-indicator for what's happening in the environment, not only in our air but also in our soil and water.

The Bronx Salamander Project was conducted in partnership with the Bronx Institute of Lehman College and Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center in the Bronx. It received support from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.



The Salamander monitoring project has been done by the Parks Department for the last ten years in the Inwood Hill Park. And they wanted to branch out, and Riverdale Park was a good place to go.

Salamanders breathe through their skins. It's called valerian respiration, and it tends to be more sensitive to pollution than other animals. They use bio-indicators, and instead of going out and looking for soil PH, we look for Salamanders, and they tell us healthy, not healthy, based on how many there are.

So it was really a great way to introduce the students to the environment and also have them start to do science as a process. So when we came together, myself and the educators at Wave Hill, we decided to take the Salamander project and branch off a little bit. We created these four group ideas and they became experts, so we had soil, we had invertebrates, plants, and we had mapping.



My name is Ryan Sabella. I'm thirteen years old. I'm in the 7th grade, and I go to Mott Hall V. Bronx is thought to be like a city place where nothing is really healthy 'cause of the pollution, and it's good to know that there is other places around here that are helpful to the environment, that are still containing pollution but are not dead yet. So it's good to know that the Bronx isn't such a bad place.

We're gonna further our studies about Salamanders. We're gonna research more about them, and then we're gonna send it to the city to show them what parts we didn't find and what parts we did find Salamanders. So in places that we didn't find Salamanders, maybe they could bring back the main resources, like help the water, and hopefully bring back the Salamanders.



My name is Shaneka Dillon. I am thirteen years old. I'm in the 7th grade, and I go to Capper Three. I was in the same group as Ryan: the plant group, the Sassafras group, and our name is after the Sassafras tree. That's our favorite tree, and we looked at different plants that we thought the Salamander might like, and we thought about either native plants or evasive plants would affect the Salamander. I feel grateful for seeing nature now because I like it!



My name is Jazmine Matthews. I'm twelve. I-- I'm in 7th grade, and I go to Capper Three. I was in the soil group. We tested the soil! We look for nitrogen-potash, phosphorus, and PH. We put the transact meters every ten feet, and we got plastic bags and plastic spoons, and we dig the-- soil. Three spoons and put in the bag, and we labeled it with the transact number and with how many feet.



My name is Tyrell Samaroo, thirteen years of age, and I go to Capper Three. We were in the soil group, and we looked-- we looked around for plants, and we also tried to identify what types of plants were evasive or native, and we learned that many trees, even though they looked not harmful to the environment, they were, and that poison ivy was only harmful for humans, not for any other plants or animals.

A native plant like grew on that type of soil. It didn't came from somewhere else and doesn't hurt any other plants. And then, evasive plant, it still grow on that soil, but it could be exotic, and it like hurts the other plants around it. It steals the nutrients.

The Salamanders breathe from through their skin, and they need the nutrients from the soil to stay alive. I think that they're kinda cool, the way that they just breathe through their skin, not they're like-- they don't have noses.



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