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7th August 2006, 13:09
<u>BAXTER BULLETIN</u> (Mountain Home, Arkansas) 02 August 06 ASU professor's research site to be featured on television program (Joanne Bratton)
Jonesboro : A former Mountain Home graduate soon will receive international recognition for his research on Arkansas amphibians.
Stanley E. Trauth, zoology professor with the ASU Department of Biological Sciences, participated in the filming of a natural history television series with famed British Broadcasting Corporation writer and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
The BBC crew filmed western slimy salamanders in an abandoned coal mine shaft Sunday and Monday in Ouachita National Forest, near Hot Springs.
The salamanders will be part of the five-segment program "Life in Cold Blood," scheduled to air in 2008. The program will explore the lives of reptiles and amphibians.
Trauth, a 1966 graduate of Mountain Home High School, has studied the reproductive ecology of the female slimy salamanders in the mine shaft for eight years, he said. The unique research site allows Trauth to study an aspect of biology that is not known.
"You would never find those females when nesting in the wild," he said, adding they nest deep in the ground in rocky crevices or caves.
Filming the amphibians with Attenborough "raised his life experiences to a higher level," Trauth said. Although Trauth is not shown in the segment, he held a slimy salamander a few inches from Attenborough's face as the crew filmed, he said.
"It was an extraordinary experience," Trauth said of meeting Attenborough. "He was personable and highly intelligent."
Attenborough, 80, has written and narrated numerous natural history programs spanning from the 1950s. The most recent television series was "Planet Earth," which aired this year, according to the BBC. Attenborough has received many awards for his work, and was knighted in 1985.
Last year, BBC became interested in the salamanders after ASU graduate student Malcolm McCallum sent it information about the salamanders. McCallum was attending a herpetology meeting and saw a brochure about the series. After receiving more information about the animals, a BBC representative visited the site last year, Trauth said.
Trauth found out about the nesting site in the 1980s, when David A. Saugey of the United States Forest Service was conducting bat research and stumbled across the salamanders' nesting area. After visiting the site, Trauth began a long-term study of the animals in 1999.
Female salamanders gather in the mine shaft in fall, laying as many as 35 egg clutches, Trauth said. The salamanders are at the site before they lay eggs, and a month ago, as many as 300 of them were in the mine, he said.
Through his research, Trauth has observed unique patterns in the animals.
Only females congregate in the mine year after year, and one salamander has gone within millimeters of the same nesting spot more than 300 feet from the opening in the mine for the past five years, he said.
The importance of the site goes beyond the animals' habits and behaviors. Extensive research of a species' behavior allows scientists to see how changes relate back to humans, such as the implications of global climate change, Trauth said.
"Biologically it is a unique spot and we want to preserve it," he said. "We take the information and try to understand the big picture."

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