Each month the Amphibian Survival Alliance shines the spotlight on individual accomplishments for amphibian conservation through our Amphibian Champions program. This month’s Amphibian Champion is Karla Pelz Serrano, a conservation biologist working as a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolita in Lerma, Mexico. [vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][text_output]For the past twelve years she has been working to conserve different species of wildlife in Meixico and the United States. Currently she is interested in recovering threatened species and their habitats. She has a particular interest in amphibians as they are important species of ecosystems but usually do not get a lot of attention.[/text_output][text_output]What got you interested in amphibians?
As a biologist I learned about the amazing physiology and natural history of amphibians. However, I also learned about how threaten some species of plants and animals are around the world. In this regard, working with different wildlife species, I realized that the amphibian group has many species in need for conservation actions but that usually do not get the efforts or resources because they are not as charismatic as other species. This is the reason why I became interested in amphibians conservation.
What are your earliest memories of interacting with amphibians? Do you have any funny stories to share?
Since I was a kid, I found amphibians fascinating, I thought it was so interesting that they could live in and outside water. I enjoyed seeing how little tadpoles hatched from gooey eggs, and then seeing day by day how these tadpoles transformed into frogs or toads was incredible! I also remember that when I used to go camping with my parents to forestry areas in central Mexico, we used to hear frogs and toads in the evenings, usually after a rainy day. I remember it was so nice to hear them “sing”; it was like if frogs and toads were giving live to the quiet forest!
When did you learn that amphibians were in trouble and how did this make you feel?
When I was doing my undergraduate studies in Mexico, I worked as a research assistant in a study that assessed the impact of a dam construction in a remote area in central Mexico. Part of the results of this study was the amount of amphibian species that we found in the area and that were already threatened or critically endangered. This was the first time I realized how many amphibians in need for conservation efforts there were, and that was only in a small area in Mexico! Later on, during my PhD studies I realized that many amphibians were disappearing because of the incidence of diseases, as well as due to other anthropogenic activities. This discovery was sad and frustrating because so many species are disappearing so fast, it made me think that we needed to be creative to conserve them.
What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions? Do amphibians face a bright or a gloomy future?
I think that now amphibians are starting to be acknowledged and recognized as important species of ecosystems. People are starting to learn and appreciate how incredible species they are and what we will lose if they go extinct. Therefore, I think that luckily today more efforts and resources are designated for the conservation of amphibians. This makes me think that amphibians have a future. However, we need to keep working, keep raising awareness of how important and amazing amphibians are.
Can you tell us a little about your current work and focus?
Currently my research focuses on the recovery of threatened species and their habitat. Particularly, I am working in the recovery of the populations of Lake Lerma Salamander, as well as in the restoration of its habitat. This is an endemic, neotenic salamander of Mexico, it is only found in small wetlands in the Toluca Valley. Unfortunately, the fragmentation and degradation of its habitat have caused that this species became critically endangered; therefore, I am working on a Conservation Action Plan for this amazing and unique salamander.
What are some of the things that our readers can do to help protect amphibians?
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
- Avoid the use of pesticides, many species of amphibians die when pesticides are spread throughout agricultural areas.
- Avoid the purchase of wild-caught amphibians as pets.
- Avoid stocking non-native fish in your pond or stream, this can kill native amphibians and other species.
- Avoid releasing your pet frog loose into the wild, it can make native amphibians to become sick.
- Conserve resources.
What keeps you personally motivated and dedicated to saving amphibians?
Knowing that I can make a difference, that even the small actions we do can have big impacts. Promoting the importance of amphibians and other species, raising awareness for the conservation of wildlife, and seeing that there are still people that worry about changing habits to protect and conserve species keep me going to save amphibians.[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][text_output]Above: Karla Pelz Serrano © Rurik List[/text_output]
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