Podcast

 

Show Notes

Here is where I got the stats for the 3 creatures I discussed in the Podcast:


https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Frog#content


https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Giant%20Frog#content


https://www.aidedd.org/dnd/monstres.php?vo=bullywug


 

Show Notes

This episode discusses the living relatives of the Hellbender. The other giant salamanders, found in Asia, share some similar struggles as the Hellebender. You can help the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander through EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) at www.edgeofextinction.org

Show Notes

This minisode highlights the Help The Hellbender program from Purdue University. I had an email interview with Nick Burgmeier, the project coordinator for the Help the Hellbender program about conservation and how people can help Hellbenders. Spoilers below if you haven’t listened to the episode yet.


Per Nick Burgmeier:
The Help the Hellbender program’s main goal is to restore Hellbender populations throughout southern Indiana and to help restore their populations throughout the eastern US. Our primary methods for achieving this goal are:
1) Research into improvements in captive-rearing and release techniques that lead measurable increases in wild survival;
2) Maintaining a large captive population for release to the wild;
3) Outreach and education of the public;
4) Working with government agencies and landowners to improve habitat quality


The main threat currently facing Hellbenders is habitat loss and degradation. This comes in the form of agricultural runoff, deforestation, and mining. Other threats include disease, persecution, and ultimately, climate change.


There are several things people can do. Simple things include maintaining your cars to prevent chemicals leaking and running into storm drains or waterways, reducing pesticide, and fertilizer use in your lawn, disposing of chemicals properly (i.e., not in your lawn/storm drains). Maintaining septic systems is a big thing that often gets overlooked by landowners. They tend to be sort of out of sight, out of mind, but when they fail, they leak sewage into waterways and are expensive to fix. General maintenance [i.e. pumping] and not driving over your septic field/planting deeply rooted plants in your septic field really help to prevent issues.–For landowners that live near streams or rivers, leaving a buffer [which is a strip of unmown area between your yard and the stream] helps to filter runoff and keep the stream cool. For landowners that have sinkholes on their properties, we ask that they don’t treat them like trash cans. It is very common for landowners to just throw their trash/chemicals down sinkholes. What many of them don’t realize is that sinkholes feed into underground cave systems and eventually drain into waterways. Anything poured down those sinkholes ends up in the river.


A couple of things that can be done by people using the river (swimming, boating) include:
a. Don’t move rocks. All of the rock stacks that we see so commonly at popular swimming holes now were once habitat for Hellbenders and other aquatic animals. Larval and juvenile Hellbenders live under those rocks and moving them not only reduces habitat, but also puts the Hellbenders at risk of getting crushed during the rock moving.
b. For kayakers/canoeists, when you come to an especially shallow area it is recommended to not try to stay in your boat and shove your way through. Young Hellbenders and freshwater mussels live in these areas and can get crushed under the boat. We recommend just getting out of your boat and pulling it through, which you are likely to do anyway.
Slightly more involved projects involve installing rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce the amount of water moving through the system and filter the water before it gets into waterways.
We encourage agricultural landowners to look into cost-share programs that help pay for conservation practices (e.g., no-till farming, cover crops, riparian buffers) that reduce the amount of runoff reaching rivers and improve soil health.


One of the best ways to help within a community is to do one of the previously mentioned practices and then talk about it. Often times, other landowners will be interested and want to emulate what you have done. If enough people do it then it turns into a trend. Becoming involved with your local master natural and master gardener programs can also help. They have resources available for volunteer programs and often host conservation events.

Show Notes

For Ape Awareness Month, here are the two recommendations I made for helping protect gorillas and orangutans: Eco-Cell & RSPO

Here are some links to information about the two new Sixgill sawshark species:  Science Daily, Popular Science, & Sci-News

Show Notes

4/1/20
Animal of the Month episode notes
For the natural history of the Hellbender, check out Animal Diversity Web


Environmental Value:
The role of Hellbenders within their habitat is primarily that of both predators and prey. Adult Hellbenders primarily prey on crayfish, which eat the eggs of other species such as fish and amphibians. If left unchecked, large populations of crayfish could harm the biodiversity of freshwater streams and rivers, so predators are important to managing crayfish populations. Hellbenders are predated upon during their egg and juvenile stage mostly, though adults can be preyed on by certain fish species like the Smallmouth bass and Rainbow trout. While it is not considered a major contribution by Hellbenders, I argue that when Hellbenders excavate their spaces, it opens up more hiding space for not just Hellbenders, but other species as well.


 

Cultural Value:
While the role of bioindicator may hold a lot of economic and environmental value, it can also be very culturally valuable. Water is important, not just for our survival, but it also plays an essential role in the arts and how we connect with nature. Many literary and physical art mediums, whether they be timeless classic or modern works, feature water in some way. For lot of people who like to connect with nature or utilize natural spaces, clean creeks, streams, rivers, wetlands, and beaches are valuable. So, the Hellbender’s role as a bioindicator of good water quality allows us to recognize which spaces are safe to be in and preserves our ability to connect with nature in these healthy, wild places.


 

Economic Value:
Due to the fact that Hellbenders eat crayfish, which can eat the eggs of commercially valuable fish and serves as prey to commercially valuable fish like the Smallmouth bass and Rainbow trout, they are economically valuable to the freshwater sportfishing industry. Within the Hellbender’s native range, freshwater sportfishing is an over 8 billion dollar industry and produces over 114,000 jobs. So, their role of predator to crayfish and prey to fish help them support these economic endeavors. Their role as bioindicator is also economically important since water quality is important not just to wildlife, but to people who rely on groundwater as well.


Conservation Message:
Environmentally-based, individual action message

Hellbenders are uniquely adapted freshwater salamanders that live under rocks on stream beds and they serve dual roles in their environment. They help control crayfish populations that can harm other species if left unchecked and they also help to feed other species sharing their streams. So, they are able to protect the health and balance of their habitat thanks to their dual roles. However, Hellbenders are facing challenges that prevent them from maintaining the health of our freshwater streams. A major challenge they face is their streams being altered by human activity. We can protect them by maintaining their habitats through simple actions. One way we can protect them is by following the “Leave No Trace” rule when visiting waterways, which means not altering or disturbing nature. When we alter streams and rivers by moving and stacking rocks, it removes places where the Hellbenders can live, and they struggle to find homes. When we visit parks and other natural spaces, we can admire the beauty of nature without altering it to protect these special salamanders by leaving no trace of our presence, so they can thrive and keep our streams healthy.

Environmentally-based, community action message
Hellbenders are uniquely adapted freshwater salamanders that live under rocks on stream beds and they serve dual roles in their environment. They help control crayfish populations that can harm other species if left unchecked and they also help to feed other species sharing their streams. So, they are able to protect the health and balance of their habitat thanks to their dual roles. However, Hellbenders are facing challenges that prevent them from maintaining the health of our freshwater streams. A major challenge they face is their streams being altered by human activity, particularly from sediment pollution. When shorelines erode from poor land management practices, it causes silt and other sediments to fall into waterways and fills in the crevices Hellbenders use for a home. We can protect them through maintaining their habitat by encouraging more farms to adopt anti-erosion practices that prevent sediment pollution in local waterways such as using cover crops and no-till farming techniques. This will help protect these special salamanders by reducing sediment pollution, so they can thrive and keep our streams healthy.