In fall 2014, Dr. Matthew Chatfield and student Gregory LeClair initiated the Unity College Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring Study (RAMS) to investigate how habitat fragmentation and weather influence patterns of space use by native Maine herpetofauna.
The project takes place during the warmer months of the year in and around the town of Unity. Each field site consists of an array of “cover boards” – sets of large, rectangular pieces of metal, wood, and plastic – that span the transition from forest to meadow habitats. These artificial refugia are a thermoregulatory haven for cold-blooded creatures, attracting nearby reptiles and amphibians. In addition to weather and other environmental characteristics, data are collected on the size, weight, and age class of captured animals in order to examine population health and dynamics.
The RAMS project provides a gateway for students interested in field biology and conservation. Through field work, data management, and data analysis, students are introduced to original research and develop critical applied science skills. Opportunities for independent projects, internships, and volunteering abound.