Swamp creatures to be tallied

Group looks to inventory wildlife at Phinizy Swamp; count aided by grant

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Aaliyah Green knows there are plenty of snakes and frogs in Phinizy Swamp - but counting them is a monumental challenge.

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Chenille Williams (left) assists Aaliyah Green as she measures a turtle. Green says it’s possible that new species will be documented in the area during the herpetology study.

"We're close to the Savannah River - and the Fall Line ," she said. "We're in the edge range for a wide number of species."

Green, a Southeastern Nat­ural Sciences Academy research scientist, is conducting the inaugural phase of a herpetology assessment focusing on the famous floodplain flanking Augusta's eastern edge.

"It's an inventory study," she said. "We need to know what lives here, and what kind of changes we might see in the future."

Tools being deployed to cap­t­ure and count reptiles and amphibians include drift fences in swampy areas, hoop nets in flooded habitats and the use of cover boards and plastic pipes to attract frogs and snakes.

"We're finding skinks and toads so far," she said. "We'll be using bigger traps later to find snakes and some of the bigger animals."

The study was made possible by a $7,000 grant from the Porter Fleming Foundation and is designed to help scientists develop a database of lizards, salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles, snakes and other creatures that can be found in the 6,000-acre swamp.

Although most species there are well known, it is entirely possible that the detective work could identify species not found there before, she said.

"There can always be something new found," she said.

One recent example was the discovery of dwarf water dogs - a type of salamander - by Augusta State University students working in the area. The species had not been documented there before.

Data collected during the ongoing assessments will become more valuable over time, she said, because it will become easier to document changes and trends.

"We'll be doing this through next spring, and then we can look at our data and decide if we need to refocus our sites or on any particular species."

Current studies are being conducted on portions of the Merry Land properties, and within the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park managed by the academy.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or
rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.


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