I had the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest a couple of weeks ago to visit a friend and one of my main goals was to find as many of the salamanders in the area as possible in the short time that I was there. We ended up finding seven different species, including this Rough-Skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa) and I've come to the realization that what started out as a year-long project has turned into a personal passion that will go beyond the year.
I had originally targeted a group of animals that I was interested in, but didn't have a great passion for. I wanted a photography project that would last a year, get me out to new areas in the country and document some of our more obscure animals. In particular, I wanted to continue with the Meet Your Neighbours project for salamanders. I had high hopes of perhaps getting 50 species of salamanders for the MYN biodiversity project. As there are approximately 190 species of salamanders in the U.S., this was no small undertaking. After this last trip, I am sitting below my goal, but still a respectable 34 species, largely from Appalachia and the Pacific Northwest. With the weather declining through much of the country, it does not look like I will add any more species to that list this year.
When faced with this realization, I understood that this was not a year-long project anymore.
This was a multi-year project. The Year of the Salamander is a fantastic awareness campaign for these secretive animals, but at the end of the year, it will be over, and it will be the year of something else next year. But salamanders need all of the awareness they can get. A recent study has found that a new species of chytrid fungus is devastating European salamanders, and threatens to jump the pond and come to the U.S. This threat makes documenting and raising awareness of American salamanders all the greater. So this project will be ongoing. It is an extremely tall order to document all 190 species of American salamander, but I'm going to try. Stay tuned.