Notes From the Field: Amphibian Diversity in Peru

Hola mis amigas y amigos!

My Peruvian friends have been telling me that the last few months have been very dry, so I had no idea what to expect upon my arrival. I was very surprised to see that the Amazon River was at least 30 or more feet lower than when I was here in March, which could potentially have a huge impact on what amphibians we see. Areas where there would normally be ponds could be completely dry. As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to get out into the rainforest and see what may be waiting for us.

Unfortunately, my suspicions were accurate and amphibians were much harder to find than usual. Since we monitor some of the same areas year after year, I had a pretty good hunch on where and what I might find in certain areas. When we have time, we always check other areas but our priority is to first survey our research sites. Among many other pieces of data we have been collecting, we are looking at diversity and abundance of species – basically, what types of frogs and toads and how many. This year seems to be the most obvious change, likely, due to the dryness. The humidity levels even felt different – normally my skin stays moist but this time I was using lotion.So far, the most interesting or peculiar sighting was a toad that had climbed a tree. The toad, common to South America, was at least four feet off the ground with no visible easy climbing point. I can hardly wait to see what else we may find!

Buenos noches!

– Marcy Sieggreen is the curator of amphibians for the Detroit Zoological Society and is doing fieldwork in Peru, studying amphibians in the lower elevations of the Amazon River to see how they are faring with increased human populations and impacts in their habitats.

Editor’s note: Marcy Sieggreen was the curator of amphibians for the Detroit Zoological Society from 2008 until her passing in 2016. The Detroit Zoological Society established the Sieggreen Amphibian Conservation Fund in Marcy’s memory to continue to advance the work she so passionately championed.

Animal Welfare: Using Infrared Thermography to Assess Well-Being

It is hard enough for us, as humans, to understand how others are feeling. But imagine how difficult it is for us to know how animals are experiencing the world around them from an emotional standpoint. Other species perceive the world very differently than we do and cannot communicate with us using words.

Finding new ways to assess the emotional lives of animals is critical to advancing our understanding of animal welfare. It is also incredibly important to develop methods that are non-invasive, thereby not affecting the animals during the process. Infrared thermography is a potential way for us to do this.

Infrared thermography (IRT) is technology that uses a camera to remotely measure the temperature of an object. The images, called thermograms, show different colors to represent various temperatures, and this allows measurement to be taken without having to touch the object. It has been used in a variety of ways including in buildings and in diagnostic medicine in both humans and animals. Some scientists have also been using it to help assess aspects of animal welfare.

Animal welfare encompasses the physical, psychological and emotional experience of an animal. It is important to use measures that look at all of those components to understand how an individual animal is faring. The body’s response to certain things, such as stress and positive experiences, can have an impact on temperature. This means that in some cases, changes in the temperature of body parts, such as the eyes, can tell us how an animal is responding to an event.

– Dr. Stephanie Allard is the director of animal welfare for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare.

 

Greenprint: Upcycling Straw to Save Dogs in Detroit

For the third year in a row, the Detroit Zoo’s Green Team has partnered with a Detroit dog rescue called C.H.A.I.N.E.D. (Continue Helping Animals in Need & Educating Dog owners) to upcycle bales of straw from our annual Halloween celebration, Zoo Boo. This year, we also began a partnership with Dog Aid. We donated more than 150 dry bales of straw to these organizations this week, which will be used throughout the winter to insulate outdoor shelters for dogs left outside by their owners.

Both organizations also take the time to properly educate pet owners on the risk of leaving pets outdoors in the winter, and in some cases they will rescue animals they believe are in dangerous situations.

By simply donating these bales of straw for reuse, the Zoo is greatly extending the useful life of this material, while potentially saving a dog’s life. Additionally, C.H.A.I.N.E.D and Dog Aid are able to redirect the approximately $700 they are saving on straw between them that can be used to purchase other supplies, such as dog food.

In addition, the Zoo donated any remaining bales of straw that might have been exposed to the elements to Detroit Dirt for composting.

This effort reduces waste while also educating the public, both of which are elements of our Greenprint initiative. Among the many steps on our Green Journey, the Zoo has a bold goal to be zero waste by 2020. We are continuing to develop important partnerships like these in order to be successful on our journey.

We would love to know how you’re upcycling fall decorations at your house. Follow the Detroit Zoo on Pinterest to learn more about the different ways to upcycle, such as turning your fall pumpkins into birdfeeders.

– Beth Wallace is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.