Improving hellbender habitats
A $2.7 million grant is funding a Purdue-led partnership to improve Indiana’s only remaining habitat for hellbender salamanders — four counties in the south central region — by expanding the use of agricultural conservation practices to decrease sedimentation in local river systems.
Rod Williams, professor of forestry and natural resources, is the project leader, and Purdue Extension wildlife specialist Nick Burgmeier, the project coordinator for Farmers Helping Hellbenders. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the effort through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
The Eastern hellbender, a species declining in Indiana, is the largest salamander in North America. Reducing sedimentation will increase available habitat for hellbenders, mussels and aquatic macroinvertebrates. The project also will address soil and nutrient loss, which are concerns for agricultural producers. The targeted conservation practices and systems have been shown to have long-term benefits for agricultural systems and operations.
Williams’ research is featured in a recent documentary, Hellbender in the Blue, produced by Teardrop Pictures.
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