Got Nature? Blog

hellbender lab photoDr. Rod Williams, extension wildlife specialist Nick Burgmeier and the Help the Hellbender team were honored for their collaboration with partners, outreach to the community and awareness education with the 2023 Indiana Friend of Conservation Award on January 9 in Indianapolis. The award, sponsored by Brownfield Ag News and presented by the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD) at its annual Conservation Awards Luncheon, recognizes individuals of entities who have made an outstanding contribution to soil and water conservation in Indiana. State level honorees are named in the corporate, individual and nonprofit/government categories.

Burgmeier and Eliza Hudson, the Farmers Helping Hellbenders Project Coordinator for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, accepted the award on the Help the Hellbender team’s behalf.

The team was nominated for the state level award in the nonprofit/government category by virtue of receiving the Washington County Soil & Water Conservation District’s Friend of Conservation Award in February.

The eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is a large, fully aquatic salamander, nicknamed the snot otter, water dog, devil dog, Allegheny alligator and water eel among other things. Their decline statewide has been documented as far back as the early-to-mid 1900s as a result of habitat loss and poor water quality. Hellbenders play an important role in aquatic ecosystems and are indicators of clean water.
hellbender photo

For much of the last 17 years, Williams and his team have been researching eastern hellbenders, spearheading regional conservation efforts and advancing hellbender captive propagation, or the rearing of this ancient animal in captivity and their eventual return to the wild. The partnership had a major breakthrough over the summer with the documentation of a young hellbender salamander in the Blue River while conducting routine surveys. This discovery is significant because over the past three to four decades, only adult hellbenders have been documented in the Blue River. The presence of a young salamander suggests that conservation efforts and rearing programs are accomplishing their goals for the recovery of this endangered species.

The Help the Hellbender lab is actively collaborating with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy as well as several other partners across 13 states on a number of conservation projects and educational opportunities forteachers and childrenfarmers and more.

To see the full article please visit the FNR News & Stories page.

Help the Hellbender website
Help the Hellbender Facebook page
Ask the Expert: Learn All About Hellbenders and Take a Tour, Subscribe Purdue Extension – Forestry & Natural Resources (FNR) YouTube Channel
Ask the Expert video: Help the Hellbender – Dr. Stephen Spear of The Wilds, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Ask the Expert video: Live with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Hellbenders, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
A Moment in the Wild video: Hellbender Hide, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
A Moment in the Wild video: Release Moment of Hellbenders,
How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Eastern Hellbender ID Video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Hellbenders Rock!, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Help the Hellbender, North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store
Purdue Expert: Hellbender Salamander, Purdue University News YouTube Channel
FNR Assists in First Natural Breeding of Eastern Hellbender in Captivity, Purdue FNR News & Stories
Helping the Hellbender: Mesker Park Zoo Begins Captive Breeding Efforts, Purdue Agriculture News

Wendy Mayer, FNR Communications Coordinator
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD)


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