Lichens and Toads

This last Tuesday night I went out and did a survey for the federally endangered Arroyo toad with a large group of my colleagues. It was really fun and the creek where we surveyed was beautiful, besides the amount of trash that people leave there. The Arroyo toad buries itself in loose sand during the day and then comes out at night to feed on insects. It looks like the common Western toad, except it does not have a white stripe running down its back. The coloration looks very similar to chunks of granite so they can be hard to spot. We didn’t find very many toads, which was disappointing, but we did find a very beautiful rattlesnake, some awesome spiders, including a tarantula, and a few kangaroo rats. It was a great time, but I was exhausted the next day because we didn’t get back to the office until 2 in the morning. Here are some of the photos from the night survey:

This is the adorable adult Arroyo toad. The babies are even cuter!

This is the adorable adult Arroyo toad (Rana mucosa). The babies are even cuter!

This is the first tarantula I have ever seen in the wild!

This is the first tarantula I have ever seen in the wild!

Pretty amazing to see all this water here in August during one of California's worst droughts!

Pretty amazing to see all this water here in August during one of California’s worst droughts!

A view from the trail of the creek we went to survey for Arroyo Toads.

A view from the trail of the creek we went to survey for Arroyo Toads.

The main project that I have been working on since my last blogpost is collecting lichens for an air quality monitoring project for the San Bernardino mountains. Lichens can be chemically analyzed for concentrations of various elements that are indicative of air pollution such as nitrogen and certain metals. Their thalli sequester whatever is deposited on them and they have no way to excrete wastes. This can be problematic for more sensitive lichens in polluted areas. The species composition of a site can be telling of the types of pollution present as well by the presence or absence of certain lichen species.

I have sites throughout the mountains where I have been collecting lichens and am hoping to finish up next week to send them off to the lab for testing. It has been difficult to find lichen in some areas, particularly chaparral, because that habitat burns frequently and lichens don’t hold up well against fire. It is also just dry in general so I have been mainly collecting saxicolous lichens, which means rock-growing. There aren’t many epiphytic foliose lichens in the San Bernardinos. These last couple pictures are from sites where I have gone collecting.

A neat view from the north side of the forest into the Mojave desert. You can see where the white limestone has been mined.

A neat view from the north side of the forest into the Mojave desert. You can see where the white limestone has been mined.

Cool sandstone (I think) rocks, but no lichen on them unfortunately.

Cool sandstone (I think) rocks, but no lichen on them unfortunately.

Only three more weeks left in my internship! I can’t believe I have been here for nine months!

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