The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 28, 2013

Herpetology group conducts survey of sites near Galena

GALENA, Kan. — Pouring rain and cool weather put a damper on most outdoor excursions, but members of the Kansas Herpetological Society said that was prime weather for their prey.

Close to 100 members of the organization waded through the dense trees and brush over the weekend near Oak Hill Cemetery, north of Galena, and continued their work at Schermerhorn Park. They were attempting to catalog different species as part of their periodic field excursions.

The Kansas Herpetological Society has been instrumental in disseminating information about different snakes, turtles and amphibians that are native to Kansas.

But experts say few places are as important to Kansas as the far southeastern corner, where an estimated 30 percent of the state’s threatened and endangered species are found because of the area’s similarity to the Ozarks.

While Schermerhorn Park has been surveyed several times since 1974, this was the first survey to be conducted near the cemetery since 1930, according to the group’s president, Dan Murrow, of Hutchinson. Murrow said the combination of cool weather and relatively undisturbed natural habitat usually produces interesting results.

“The cold weather slows down their bodies, making them easier to catch because they are coldblooded,” Murrow said. “With this cool weather, we can turn over some logs or cover and find more salamanders and frogs than we would have if it was a warm, sunny day.”

Within an hour of the initial search Saturday, many of the group’s members were taking their finds back to the main road to begin identification. Small amphibians were pulled out of long, white canvas bags as group members opened up their pocket guides to begin the identification steps.

Murrow took inventory of the features of one captured critter while Suzanne Collins, historian with the state group, consulted her copy of “Amphibians, Reptiles and Turtles in Kansas.” She co-wrote the book with her late husband, Joseph Collins, and biologist Travis Taggart, who also participated in the weekend survey. Collins was quick to point out the color of the skin and the scale features, as she proclaimed the lizard to be a male coal skink, which is common in the area.

Her husband founded the Kansas Herpetological Society in 1974 as a way to promote academic research and education across the state. He also founded the Center for North American Herpetology and was an instructor at the University of Kansas. After he died in 2012, Suzanne Collins continued his work in the field.

“We track and we keep everything online, and over time it becomes a historical guidepost for environmental change,” Collins said Saturday. “By looking at peaks in population, we can get a good idea of what has changed in the area, and if some species have completely departed or if they are thriving.”

In the case of Oak Hill Cemetery, 80 years can be telling for population change.

“That much time can be so great for wildlife populations,” Collins said. “Looking at the last survey here, the pickerel frog was common to find in the ’30s, but now is an amphibian that they are trying to reintroduce into the wild. That population may be completely gone ... in those 80 years.”

That kind of information is what Southeast Kansas Nature Center founder Linda Phipps wanted.

“I was thrilled to have them come here,” Phipps said Saturday. “It is exciting to have them survey the area with such a gap since the last one. We hope that it promotes a stronger interest to the area.”

Taggart is the field trip chairman and a past president of the state society. He said that while tracking data is important, such events also educate younger members.

Murrow said the results of the two-day survey will be published later this year, with information provided online at a database called the Kansas Herp Atlas for access by those who are curious about the changes in population.

“The group will return here eventually to conduct the same survey years from now,” Murrow said. “The work we do here today will help keep that passion up for many more years to come and will help uncover the changes across the state.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Embezzler from Joplin car dealerships sent to prison

    A federal judge has sentenced Kathryn M. Stayton to 13 months in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from Frank Fletcher Ford and Credit Cars of Joplin. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays assessed the 36-year-old Joplin woman the prison term at a sentencing hearing this week in federal court in Springfield. The judge also ordered the former controller at both car dealerships to pay restitution totaling $121,249. 51.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screening of MSSU presidential applicants to wrap by end of April

    The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University could be in a position to name a president as early as the end of June, according to a timeline presented Friday by the co-chair of the presidential search committee.

    April 18, 2014

  • Teams from Carl Junction, Diamond advance in Destination Imagination

    Student teams from Carl Junction and Diamond will be traveling to Destination Imagination finals May 20-24 in Knoxville, Tenn., after being top finishers in competition this month at Missouri Southern State University.

    April 18, 2014

  • Neosho Dogwood Tour reset, after false start

    The 53rd annual Neosho Dogwood Tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27. The event, presented by the Neosho Rotary Club and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, originally was scheduled for Sunday, April 13.

    April 18, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

  • Pittsburg Farmer's Market to open in new building, new location

    The official market season in Pittsburg, Kan., will kick off in the market’s new pavilion-style building at a new address, 11th and Broadway, on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Market hours will continue throughout the season on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with some Wednesdays or other special days throughout the season as announced.

    April 18, 2014

  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read


A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter