by Olivia Lauricella
With spring just around the corner, and warmer, rainier weather ahead, this can mean one thing for Maine: the arrival of Maine Big Night. I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Jeff Parmalee to discuss what exactly Maine Big Night is, and how someone can get involved. Contrary to its title, Big Night is not just one night. Anytime the perfect combination of temperatures in the 50’s and rainy nights occur, the amphibians of Maine make their way out from underground hibernation. These amphibians must cross roads to find vernal pools where they can breed. Maine Big Night was started in 2018 by a student from Unity College, and is now a graduate student at University of Maine. Since then the event has grown exponentially.
How the event works is you can adopt sites that are sections of roads that have been identified as important, where amphibians could cross the road and get killed. After some online training on the website Of Pools And People, you are ready to collect data on a mobile app. Note every amphibian you see and record whether it is dead, alive, or injured, and then help them cross the road. You may see spring peepers, wood frogs, toads, and newts. Another way to sign up is to head over to the Maine Big Night Facebook page to see where other people are volunteering and which sites are available to adopt.
Fun Fact: In 2020 with the onset of Covid-19, researchers found with no cars on the road, there was a decline in amphibian deaths. The question remains: how detrimental is traffic to amphibian populations, and can it lead to extinction of some species?
If you are interested in participating in a Big Night event, Dr. Parmelee has adopted five sites either on or near the UNE Biddeford campus and plans to organize times to head out and record observations. Big Nights usually happen in early April, but global warming has been bringing the spring thaw earlier. We expect it to happen in mid-March this year. For more information check out http://www.vernalpools.me/big-night/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/785219548512732 or contact Dr. Jeff Parmalee.