By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend
Why did the amphibian cross the road? To lay eggs on the other side.
The area around Penn State Behrend’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center (AMIC) in Knowledge Park is an amphibian’s paradise. Woods give way to marshy areas and small ponds, some tucked safely behind trees and shrubs, providing the perfect habitat for frogs, salamanders, and newts that live in woods but breed in water.
Each spring, a parade of amphibians crosses Technology Drive and the AMIC parking lot to reach the ponds where they can lay their eggs. Many don’t make it, falling victim to vehicle traffic or plunging through the grates that cover road drainage tubes. Motorists passing by may not notice, but the faculty members and students in Behrend’s Biology program who study spotted salamanders do.
“Frankly, we’ve seen too many road-killed amphibians and egg-laden females stuck in the drains to not try to do something about it,” said Dr. Lynne Beaty, assistant professor of biology. “They’re not alone, though, as many wood frogs, red-spotted newts, and spring peepers also face those same hazards to reach breeding ponds in the spring.”
Beaty reached out to the college’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) department with two solutions to mitigate the problem. One was to install “amphibian migration route” signs to encourage drivers to pay attention to amphibians on the asphalt. The second solution involves placing a mesh covering over the drains in the area to prevent small amphibians from falling through on their way to their breeding sites.
The signs, which were designed by senior Biology student Phoebe Will, are now installed, and a team of engineering students is working with M&O to create the mesh coverings for the drains.
“Our Maintenance and Operations group is always willing to help the college achieve its academic and research missions, especially when that involves protecting wildlife,” said Randy Geering, senior director of operations.
So, if you regularly travel Technology Drive, please go slow and keep an eye out for wildlife!