Got Nature? Blog

Eastern red-backed salamanders.The Purdue Extension-Nature of Teaching has recently released a new publication through The Education Store. The Nature of Teaching provides free Indiana Academic Standard-based lesson plans for students in grades second through sixth to guide them on how to help maintain a healthy environment.

Understanding adaptations for aquatic amphibians can help humans learn more about healthy ecosystems. Through this educational unit, students will be able to explain how amphibian adaptations benefit survival, describe the importance of Eastern Hellbender adaptations, and identify impacts that humans have on aquatic amphibians.

These packed lesson plans are great resources for school teachers, parents, 4-H leaders and other natural resource educators. View the Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians for the latest installment in the Nature of Teaching resources. See below for other related publications, lesson plans and games.

Frogs and Toads of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store
Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
Hellbender Havoc Game, Google Play, Hellbender Havoc Game – Apple iTunes Store
Hellbender Decline, Purdue Extension-FNR Youtube
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Extension Wildlife Specialist & Research Biologist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Purdue University has teamed up with four zoos to protect hellbenders. This effort is a worldwide collaboration as zoos, government agencies, and other conservation groups, implement much-needed conservation initiatives. This recently published publication titled How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders shares the current zoos in Indiana that are collaborating with Purdue in this conservation effort. Zoos are conservation and research organizations that play critical roles both in protecting wildlife and their habitats and in educating the public. Thus, with hellbenders experiencing declines over the past several decades, teaming up with zoos in order to preserve and protect the hellbender species is ideal. The zoos that are currently partners with Purdue University in this effort are: Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana; Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette, Indiana; Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Nashville Zoo in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three videos have been released showing how the zoos are working with Purdue University to help protect hellbenders. You can check them out below!

Conservation Efforts, Mesker Park Zoo
Hellbender Research Participation Spotlight, Columbian Park Zoo
Conservation, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Hellbender Conservation, Nashville Zoo
Purdue Partners with Indiana Zoos for Hellbender Conservation – Purdue Newsroom
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension-FNR
Nature of Teaching, Purdue Extension-FNR
I found this in my barn. Is it a Hellbender? – Purdue FNR Extension, Got Nature

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Students in Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) continue to volunteer for Hands of the Future, Inc., a non-profit program whose mission is to help educate children about the outdoors and natural resources. As this program continues to grow, one of their dreams has been to find woods to create a children’s forest. To have a natural site that has been embellished upon with children’s needs in mind and to encourage outdoor play and adventures.

The students plan on transforming 18.8 acres of idle woods into Zonda’s Children’s Forest. The children’s forest will be composed of six main areas:

  1. A children’s garden, equipped with a greenhouse and kitchen, thChildren climbing on tree, Hands of the Futureat’ll allow children to learn how to properly grow and cook food.
  2. An enclosed area dedicated to allowing children having fun and safe adventures.
  3. A viewing area for butterflies, birds and other organisms of the wild, allowing children to easily enjoy the life of the forest.
  4. A maze designed by sunflowers, where children can have fun and do problem-solving, while close to nature.
  5. A walk dedicated to viewing the owls and other organisms composing the forest.
  6. Another enclosed area of the woods for adventures; However, it’ll also contain tree houses, bridges and other fun additions for the children.

Donations to help make Zonda’s Children’s Forest a reality can be made here. They have six months to raise $235,000 in order to purchase the woods.

Volunteers & Interns:
Older students and adults can apply to be a volunteer. Volunteers are always appreciated, no past experience necessary. If you love nature and kids you will enjoy this program. Internships are available for college students, contact Zonda Bryant.

Hands of the Future, Inc.
Junior Nature Club

Zonda Bryant, Director


It’s Arbor Day again, and it’s time to celebrate the importance of trees. The fact that trees are essential to both humans and wildlife is well-established. However, most people think of trees in the context of oxygen production, wood products, and habitat for wildlife such as squirrels and birds. I’d like to focus on one of the less well-known services that trees provide, keeping water clean. This service not only benefits people but alsoStream with soft bank. aquatic wildlife like the Hellbender salamander.

The Hellbender salamander is North America’s largest salamander. It is fully aquatic, living its entire life in rivers and streams throughout the midwest and southeast. Hellbenders require cool, clean rivers and streams with rocky substrates to thrive and reproduce. Unfortunately, over the past few decades the species has declined or disappeared from many of these areas. There are several causes that scientists suspect, but the loss of trees due to increases in agriculture and urban/suburban areas is at the top of the list.

Trees do a number of things to keep our water clean. The forest canopy intercepts rainfall and slows the rate at which water enters the ground. This helps reduce flooding. Trees provide shade to rivers and streams thus keeping them cool and allowing for higher levels of dissolved oxygen. Trees also filter nutrients and chemicals from runoff, preventing them from entering streams. One of the most important functions that trees provide is stabilizing our riverbanks and hillsides and preventing sediment from entering the stream and changing our rocky river bottoms to mud bottoms. These functions are especially important in our modern landscape, where agriculture and hard surfaces dominate many areas.

All of these functions help to create a clean environment for Hellbenders and other aquatic wildlife to live. Without trees, it is likely that our rivers and streams would be too dirty for many species to survive. If you are looking for a way to help the Hellbender, then please consider planting a tree this Arbor Day. Several Arbor Day celebrations for 2017 will be held on Saturday, April 29th. Check out activities around your area: Purdue Extension County Offices, Indiana Department of Natural Resources or Tippecanoe Soil & Water Conservation District.

For more ways you can help, please visit Help the

Rainscaping, Purdue Extension
How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender, The Education Store-Purdue Extension resource center
Hellbender ID, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality at Your Livestock Operation video, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree video, The Education Store
Tree Planting Part 2: Planting Your Tree video, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on March 13th, 2017 in Aquaculture/Fish, Aquatic/Aquaculture Resources | Comments Off on Raising Marine Shrimp in Indiana

Program Impacts identity


There continues to be significant interest in rearing marine shrimp in Indiana and the Midwest. Two issues of interest to existing and potential producers are supply of shrimp larvae and information on Best Management Practices for rearing shrimp here in Indiana.


What Has Been Done

The Indiana Soybean Alliance sponsored a demonstration project to see whether shrimp larvae could be raised using commercial feedstuffs (Live feeds are traditionally used). The theory being producers would not have to rely on shipments of larvae from tropical regions with significant risks. By using commercial feedstuffs, the footprint of operations could be reduced.
Shrimp, Purdue ExtensionA one day meeting for producers is planned for February 10, 2016, bringing together shrimp rearing experts from Texas A & M and Kentucky State Universities along with Purdue experts in marketing, economics and environmental controls. This program will encompass almost all phases of production through sales.


Although the larval demonstration project was unsuccessful, with shrimp mortalities within one day of arrival, future research may be undertaken using different protocols by bringing in brood shrimp (parental stocks) instead of shrimp eggs.

Marine Shrimp Biofloc Systems: Basic Management Practices publication, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

Once aquatic invasive species (AIS) are established in a new environment, typically, they are difficult or impossible to remove. Even if they are removed, their impacts are often irreversible. It is much more environmentally and economically sound to prevent the introduction of new AIS through thoughtful purchasing and proper care of organisms. Check out this article titled Aquatic Invasive Species – Organisms in Trade for a list of webinars bringing resources to teachers, water garden hobbyists, aquatic landscaping designers and to aquatic enthusiasts.  The video titled Beauty Contained: Preventing Invasive Species from Escaping Water Gardens is also available in the article which contains guidelines that were adopted from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force along with addressing the care and selection of plants and animals for water gardens.

Aquatic Invaders in the Marketplace, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Great Lakes Sea Grant Network (GLERL), NOAA – Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
Indiana Bans 28 Invasive Aquatic Plants, The Helm – Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
A Field Guide to Fish Invaders of the Great Lake Regions, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Purdue Researchers Get to the Bottom of Another Quagga Mussel Impact, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Lady Quagga Announces Latest Tour, llinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Protect Your Waters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & U.S. Coast Guard

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension

Quagga mussels, which arrived in Lake Michigan in the 1990s via ballast water discharged from ships, have colonized vast expanses of the Lake Michigan bottom, reaching densities as high as roughly 35,000 quagga mussels per square meter. The invasive species that can have major economic impacts filters up to 4 liters of water per day, and so far seems unaffected by any means of population control. It is also a constant threat to other systems, as it is readily transported between water bodies.

Researchers have long known that these voracious filter feeders impact water quality in the lake, but their influence on water movement had remained largely a mystery.

“Although Lake Michigan is already infested with these mussels, an accurate filtration model would be imperative for determining the fate of substances like nutrients and plankton in the water,” Purdue University PhD candidate David Cannon said. “In other quagga mussel-threatened systems, like Lake Mead, this could be used to determine the potential impact of mussels on the lake, which could in turn be used to develop policy and push for funding to keep mussels out of the lakes.”

For full article and video view Purdue Researchers Get to the Bottom of Another Quagga Mussel Impact.

A Field Guide to Fish Invaders of the Great Lake Regions, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Lady Quagga Announces Latest Tour, llinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Protect Your Waters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & U.S. Coast Guard

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension

You’ve heard about all the traditional careers. But what about being an outdoor scientist? Introducing the world to The Familiar Faces Project which shares careers in fisheries, acquatic sciences, forestry, wildlife and sustainable biomaterials. This video will show by example what it’s like to be an outdoor scientist, walking you through a typical work day of Megan Gunn. For more information about The Familiar Faces Project, contact

Aquatic Ecology Research Lab, Forestry and Natural Resources

Megan Gunn, Aquatic Ecology Research Scientist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

QSalamander Photouestion from Josh L Lady: Which salamander is this?

The picture posted is one of our mole salamanders (family Amystomatidae). This common family name comes from their habit of staying underground and in burrows of other creatures, except when breeding. Species in this family can be difficult to tell apart at times. Adding to the confusion, there is a species called the Mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) which in Indiana is only found in the extreme southwestern part of the state.

The species below is likely a Small-mouthed Salamander (Ambystoma texanum). It can be found throughout Indiana except the extreme northwestern and southeastern portions of the state. The Small-mouthed Salamander is a moderate sized salamander characterized by its slender head and small mouth. Most individuals are dark gray to grayish brown with light gray speckles (often resembling lichen-like markings), particularly on the lower sides of the body. Adults usually reach 11-19 cm in length and have an average of 15 costal grooves (i.e., the “wrinkles” on the sides of the body; range 13-15).

I say it is likely a Small-mouthed Salamander because they are nearly identical to in appearance to the Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri). There are minor differences in the teeth and premaxillary bones between the two species; however, these structures are not readily observable in the field. Geographic location and habitat type are the best ways to distinguish these two species. Streamside Salamanders are restricted to extreme southeastern Indiana, occupy hilly areas, and breed in streams. Small-mouthed Salamanders exist nearly statewide, occur in wooded floodplains, and breed in ephemeral wetlands.

Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center.
Appreciating Reptiles and Amphibians, The Education Store
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Ranavirus: Emerging Threat to Amphibians, The Education Store

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Help The Hellbender PosterThe eastern hellbender is a large, fully aquatic salamander that requires cool, well-oxygenated rivers and streams. Because they require high-quality water and habitat, they are thought to be indicators of healthy stream ecosystems. While individuals may live up to 29 years, possibly longer, many populations of this unique salamander are in decline across their geographic range. It is the largest salamander in North America, found in and around rivers and streams in 17 states from New York to Missouri. Many hellbender populations are in decline within their geographic range. This publication provides information on identifying and preserving this important aquatic animal. You can find Help the Hellbender, FNR-536-W, as well as other great resources that can be found at

How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender, The Education Store
Hellbender ID, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality at Your Livestock Operation, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Head of Extension and Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

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