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Crowdfunding fuels UAF doctoral student's amphibian field work


A boreal toad found along the Stikine River in May 2012, the site of an amphibian survey Joshua Ream hopes to conduct this summer with help from a crowdfunding campaign.

PHOTO: Joshua Ream

A University of Alaska Fairbanks doctoral student is raising money through a crowdfunding website to complete fieldwork this summer that will enhance the herpetological collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North and provide a better understanding of the amphibian population in the Stikine River watershed.

Joshua Ream is working on an Interdisciplinary Studies doctoral degree using methods from biology and social science to better understand the place of amphibians and reptiles in Alaska’s cultural and ecological heritage.

Ream’s crowdfunding goal is to raise $1,000 by May 31 to cover the costs of fieldwork. Crowdfunding refers to online platforms that allow individuals and groups to collect donations from supporters worldwide.

“The work will be conducted regardless of the success of the crowdfunding,” Ream said. “But a successful campaign will greatly enhance the scope of this and other project components.”

The project includes an inventory of amphibian populations on the Stikine River in Southeast Alaska, which flows for approximately 40 miles from the Canadian border to its mouth near the communities of Wrangell and Petersburg. Ream says the Stikine is reportedly home to all six of the known native species of amphibians, making it a herpetological hotspot compared to other regions of Alaska. But it’s been more than 20 years since the last comprehensive study of amphibians in the area.

“Tracking amphibians along the Stikine over time can help us to understand normal background fluctuations in their populations,” Ream said. “This knowledge allows us to monitor for unusual population events and to record amphibian responses to global changes near the northern limits of their known range.

“Amphibians act as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, giving advance warning of changes in the aquatic ecosystems. Changes in mean annual temperatures, numbers of frostless days and levels of human activity are likely to cause changes in the distribution of amphibian species. Colonization of new amphibian species, the threat of invasive species, several of which have established populations in southeast Alaska, and the spread of amphibian diseases will also present new problems for natural resource managers.”

Ream says the museum has been instrumental in supporting his research by providing access to historical records and various sampling supplies and as an outlet for outreach and education.

His dissertation adviser, Andres Lopez, the curator of the museum’s aquatics collection, said Josh’s passion for herpetological research has already produced great additions to the museum’s collections. “Thanks to his ongoing field research in the Stikine and his leadership role in the Alaska Herpetological Society, the museum collections are becoming increasingly valuable resources for the study and management of Alaska’s amphibians.”

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS:  Joshua Ream, UAF graduate student at jtream@alaska.edu. Andres Lopez, UAMN curator of aquatics, at 907-4747828 or jalopez2@alaska.edu.

ON THE WEB: museum.uaf.edu

For more information on this and other aspects of Ream’s doctoral research, visit www.akherpsociety.org/stikineresearch.htm.

A link to the crowdfunding website is here: http://www.gofundme.com/2j865w

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