Project Partners

Help the Hellbender is actively collaborating with these organizations on a number of conservation projects and continuing education opportunities:

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources branding
IN DNR logo
IN DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife
The Nature Conservancy

Project Partners by State

Georgia

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Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE
Social Circle, GA 30025
Hellbender Contact:
Thomas Floyd 

Illinois

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Endangered Plants and Animals (DNR): dnr.endspec@illinois.gov
Endangered Species Protection Board: dnr.espb@illinois.gov
Hellbender Contact:
Chris Phillips
Email:lithasia@gmail.com
The Eastern Hellbender is known in Illinois from only a handful of records in six counties, all in the Wabash or Ohio drainages and all but one prior to 1960. Only two of these records come from inland waters; one from the lower Cache River (Ohio River drainage) near Ullin, IL and one from Skillet Fork Creek (Little Wabash drainage) in Hamilton Co. The latter is represented by a photo from a local newspaper. The remaining records are from the Wabash and Ohio rivers. The most recent specimen, from the Wabash River near Maunie, IL in 1989, was caught by a commercial fisherman. Most former rocky habitat in Illinois has been buried under silt. This not only makes it unsuitable for hellbenders, but makes surveying difficult. Endangered in Illinois.

More information regarding Hellbenders in Illinois can be found at the Illinois Natural History (INHS) Herpetology Collection - Hellbender.

Indiana

U.S. map with state of Indiana highlighted.
Purdue University
195 Marsteller Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2033
IN DNR-Fish & Wildlife

Hellbender Contacts:
Nick Burgmeier
Dr. Rod Williams
Phone: 765-494-3568
Indiana Department of Natural Resources' (IN DNR) Contact:
Nate Engbrecht
5596 E. State Rd. 46, Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 334-1137

Help the Hellbender DayHellbenders are only found in the Blue River watershed region of Indiana. Historically they had a much larger range, but the population dropped drastically due to pollution and other factors. There are only a few hundred hellbenders left in the state, so conservation is very important. Several organizations, such as Purdue university and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, are working on research and conservation of hellbenders as well as outreach to the public. Purdue has a captive rearing program for hellbenders and also performs research on hellbenders and how to improve conservation efforts. Several zoos in the state are working with Purdue in order to establish more captive rearing programs for hellbenders. 

Purdue University also is heavily involved in hellbender extension and outreach, including this website, educational videos, and other literature.also participates in these education and outreach programs. Events, such as "Help the Hellbender Day", in which the Columbian park zoo hosted games and private tours of their hellbender facilities, and Purdue university brought informational booth and activities. Purdue also attends local community programs like the Master Gardener Fair, in which Purdue set up an informational booth and provided flyers and brochures about hellbender conservation and water quality. and community nature progrms are held often in order to educate the public about hellbender conservation.  The Purdue Student Chapter of Environmental Education (SCEE) is also heavily involved in hellbender outreach. SCEE participates in community nature programs and school visits in order to encourage healthy water habits.

Meet Herbie

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Herbie is the mascot of the hellbender conservation movement in Indiana, although he's much bigger and much softer than a typical hellbender. Herbie can be seen at Purdue events like Help the Hellbender Day greeting all of the visitors. He loves spreading the word about hellbenders, meeting new people, and eating lots of crayfish. If you see him out and about, be sure to say hi! You can also get a picture with Herbie and post it to instagram or facebook with the hashtag  #herbie or #helpthehellbender.

Research

At Purdue University, Dr. Williams and his lab are dedicated to hellbender research, with several graduate students focusing on different projects and several publications over the last few years. Additional information can be found at the Williams lab website. A list of publications by the Williams lab can be found here.

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Obed Hernandez-Gomez herna102@purdue.edu
Obed Hernandez-Gomez is a PhD student with research focusing on immunogenetics and microbiota communities on hellbender skin. The Ozark hellbender subspecies is currently listed as endangered, and has been documented to have an increased rate of infections that lead to necrosis of the limbs and other infected areas. This pattern has not been noted on the other subspecies of hellbenders, the eastern hellbender. However, both subspecies have suffered significant population number loss within the past 30 years. He plans to first identify the bacterial and fungal communities living on the skin of both subspecies through the use of next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques. After that, he plans to use NGS to characterize the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I and class II genes of hellbenders. MHC genes are involved in the immune system’s ability to recognize pathogens. Eventually, he hopes to be able to compare the microbiota diversity found between the subspecies to their MHC gene composition. The goal of his project is to find if there is an immunogenetic component to the reason why the Ozark hellbender experiences more infections. If so, this information can be used to direct current hellbender breeding programs into performing artificial selection for the increase in immunogenetic potential of future hellbender populations.
 
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Emily McCallenemccall@purdue.edu
Emily McCallen is a PhD student interested in utilizing geospatial technologies to examine the relationship between species and their environment. Her master’s work at Eastern Illinois University focused on creating and testing a spatially explicit distribution model to estimate contaminant burdens in North American river otters (Lontra Canadensis) on the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. For her doctoral project she will be examining the relationship between eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) and their habitat within the Blue River Watershed in Southern Indiana.
 
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Erin Kenisonekenison@purdue.edu
Erin Kenison is a PhD student whose research focuses on advancing eastern hellbender head-starting techniques to increase the effectiveness of reintroduction-based conservation efforts for remaining populations. Drastic declines in hellbender populations have been observed nationwide and no evidence of recruitment has been documented in populations in Indiana for two decades. Moreover, very little is known about larval habitat use, behavior, movement, or reasons for their absence within the state. The objective of my doctoral work is to increase post-release survival of juveniles through novel captive-rearing methods. Specifically, she will investigate larval responses to a variety of natural conditions and stimuli presented in the laboratory while increasing understanding of the ecology and natural history of the species. In addition, She completed my Master's research at Montana State University where she studied the nonconsumptive effects of introduced trout, stocked for recreational angling, on native long-toed salamanders. Both of these projects match my broader interests in larval amphibian growth and development, predator-prey interactions, anthropogenic influences on aquatic communities, and amphibian conservation.
 

Former Students

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Bart Kraus | bkraus@purdue.edu

Bart Kraus is a masters student with research  focused on the spatial ecology and survivorship of translocated and resident eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in the Blue River, IN. Recent population declines throughout their range have prompted concern about the persistence of this species. Indiana’s eastern hellbender population has been restricted to the Blue River, located within one of the southernmost watersheds in the state. Previous telemetry research suggests individuals are scattered throughout the river and/or are spatially isolated from one another. He hopes to increase local hellbender population densities using translocations. He will then determine their home range, both temporally and spatially, and dispersal distances (of translocated individuals) in order to help determine the feasibility of hellbender translocations. Additionally, he would like to estimate the survivorship of both translocated and resident hellbender to determine translocation success and to inform state management agencies when deciding on the future conservation efforts for this species.

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Nick Burgmeiernburgmei@purdue.edu
Nick Burgmeier is a former masters student whose research is focused on various life history attributes and the population status of the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in the Blue River, IN. Recent range wide declines have prompted concern about the potential viability of the species. In Indiana they are known to exist only in the Blue River, though extensive surveys have not been conducted elsewhere. He hopes to determine the home range and habitat use, both seasonally and spatially, in order to better understand the needs of the species. Additionally, he would like to estimate the remaining population size to help management agencies determine the proper course of action within the state. With help from another graduate student, he would also like to attempt exhaustive surveys in other lotic systems in an effort to locate any remaining populations.
He's also interested in the parasite loads these individuals possess as well as the potential contribution of xenobiotics to the decline the of the Indiana populations.

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Shem Ungersunger@purdue.edu
Shem Unger is a former PhD student whose research focuses on the ecology, genetic variation, and population status of the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in the Blue River, IN. These long-lived salamanders inhabit clear, cool streams with a mosaic of larger shelter rocks and gravel substrate for nest construction and larval development. Hellbender populations are in severe decline throughout their range due to increased siltation, water pollution, over-collection, and mortality by anglers. Indiana populations once found throughout the Wabash and Ohio River watersheds, are now restricted to the Blue River. Because this decline is likely the result of multiple causative agents, he will utilize a combination of field sampling techniques, laboratory simulation, and molecular marker development to investigate hellbender ecology and genetics.

Kentucky

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Wildlife Diversity Program
1 Sportsman's Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601
(800) 858-1549

KY DNR Contacts:
John MacGregor, State Herpetologist, john.macgregor@ky.gov​
Zach Couch, Nongame Program Coordinator, zach.couch@ky.gov

The Wildlife Diversity Program works with wildlife species through research, management, and education. We strive to enhance wildlife diversity, and promote sustainable use of those resources including protection of threatened and endangered species, species of greatest conservation need within Kentucky's Wildlife Action Plan, their habitats and protection of sensitive areas. We will promote the message that all wildlife species and their habitats are vital to sustain a healthy environment.
More information regarding sustaining Kentucky's wildlife can be found at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Wildlife Diversity page.

Mississippi

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Museum of Natural Science
2148 Riverside Drive, MS 39202
Phone: 601-576-6000

Hellbender Contacts:
Sheena Feist, Conservation Resources Biologist, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program
Email: Sheena.Feist@mmns.state.ms.us

Tom Mann, Zoologist, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program
Email: Tom.Mann@mmns.state.ms.us​ 

Will Selman, Assistant Professor of Biology, Millsaps College
Email: will.selman@millsaps.edu

Missouri

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​Conservation Headquarters
2901 W. Truman Blvd., Jefferson City, MO 65109
Phone: 573-751-4115
Fax: 573-751-4467

New York

U.S. map with state of New York highlightred.
Endangered Species Unit
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)
625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754
518-402-8924

Contact:
Michelle R. Herman, M.Sc., Biological Technician The Wetland Trust
118 Golf Course Road
Mobile: 814-232-1204
Email: mh@thewetlandtrust.org

North Carolina

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Headquarters: 1751 Varsity Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606
Mailing Address: 1701 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1701
Phone: 919-707-0010 
Hellbender Contacts:
John D. Groves, Curator Emeritus of Amphibians and Reptiles, North Carolina Zoo
Email: johngroves2005@yahoo.com
Lori A. Williams, Certified Wildlife Biologist, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Email: Lori.Williams@ncwildlife.org 
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April 23, 2022: Spring Fling Festival, Andrews, NC (appearance by Rocky)snotty.jpg

July 15, 2022: Private outreach with NC teachers, Pisgah National Forest, NC (appearance by Rocky)

For more information view North Carolina's Wildlife Resources Commission page to view facts about the hellbender.

Ohio

U.S. map with state of Ohio highlightred.
2045 Morse Road, Columbus, OH 43229-6693
Phone: (614) 265-6565
Hellbender Contact:
Gregory Lipps, LLC
Amphibian & Reptile Conservaton Coordinator
Ohio State University
Phone: 419-376-3441
Email: GregLipps@gmail.com​
​​​
The Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is one of only two completely aquatic salamanders found in the state of Ohio. Within the state it has historically been found in nearly all of the major systems draining into the Ohio River.

In order to maintain viable populations of the hellbender in Ohio, four recommendations are made:
  1. Support conservation efforts in areas where viable populations currently exist;
  2. Increase the use of existing conservation programs to protect hellbender habitat;
  3. Investigate the feasibility of a repatriation/augmentation program for hellbenders in Ohio; and,
  4. Continue to conduct mark-recapture surveys to monitor populations, collect demographic and growth data, and provide on-the-ground outreach and early detection of potential threats.

The Ohio Hellbender Partnership consists of representatives of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, several Ohio Zoos (Columbus Zoo, the Wilds, Toledo Zoo, Akron Zoo), the Ohio EPA, local soil and water conservation districts, and college/university researchers and students. We have been meeting regularly since the completion of statewide surveys to discuss strategies for reversing the decline of the hellbender in Ohio.

Pennsylvania​

U.S. map with state of Pennsylvania highlighted.

Trinity College
Environmental Science Program and Department of Biology​
300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106

Hellbender Contact:
Peter J. Petokas, Ph.D., Research Associate
Clean Water Institute and Department of Biology
Lycoming College
0ne College Place
Williamsport, PA 17701
Office: 570-321-4006
Mobile: 570-606-6017
Email: petokas@lycoming.edu

Tennessee

TN Wildlife Resources Agency


Ellington Agricultural Center
440 Hogan Rd., Nashville, TN 37220
Phone: (615) 781-6500​

 

Hellbender Contact:
Michael Freake, Professor of Biology, Lee University
Phone: 423-614-8282
Email: mfreake@leeuniveristy.edu

Dale McGinnity, Ectotherm Curator, Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Email: dmcginnity@nashvillezoo.org

Virginia

U.S. map with state of Virginia highlighted.
VA Department of Game and Inland Fishereis
Email: dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov
Phone: (804) 367-1000 
Hellbender Contact:
William Hopkins, Ph.D. Professor and Director
Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Conservation Physiology & Wildlife Exotoxicology
The Global Change Center at Virginia Tech
Office: 540-231-7292
Email: hopkinsw@vt.edu

In Virginia, hellbenders are found in the main-stem and tributaries of the New River drainage and in the Clinch, Powell, and Holston River tributaries of the Upper Tennessee River. In Virginia, hellbenders have been observed in streams as small as 5 meters and rivers over 100 meters wide. Because of their preference for clean streams and rivers, hellbenders serve as indicators of stream health. The presence of young and adults is synonymous with good water quality.

The eastern hellbender is a Federal Species of Concern. In Virginia, it is listed as a species of special concern and as a Tier II species in the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan.

Hellbenders cannot be sold, killed, or kept for personal use.

Several efforts are underway in Virginia to conserve and manage hellbender populations. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has produced an educational poster and a website to better inform the public about the plight of this species. In selected rivers in southwest Virginia, the Department is contracting researchers from Virginia Tech to assess hellbender populations in a variety of landscapes such as forested and agricultural. Techniques are being refined to cultivate hellbenders in captivity at the Department's Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center near Marion, Virginia. Eggs that are abandoned or dislodged from nests are collected from nearby rivers and held in aquaria to determine their potential to hatch. To date, we have been able to hatch 60 hellbenders. Twenty juveniles have been released back to their natal streams. In the future, laboratory cultivation may be an effective tool to augment and re-establish the species back into their former range.

More information regarding Hellbenders in Virginia can be found at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries site.

All information was provided by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries​.

West Virginia

U.S. map with West Virginia highlighted.
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
Fish & Wildlife Resources
324 Fourth Ave, South Charleston, WV 25303
Phone: (304) 558-2771

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