Tim Crosby: Researchers Tracking Mudpuppies

Southern Illinois University:

Alicia Beattie, a graduate student zoology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, holds a mudpuppy caught in a frozen lake in northern Illinois this past winter. The full aquatic salamanders are the subject of an ongoing research project funded the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to learn more about the threatened species, which lives in freshwater lakes and streams throughout the eastern half the country.

“One of the angles of this project is to find out more about how they live in lakes,” said Matt Whiles, professor of zoology and interim director of the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, and director of the Center for Ecology at SIU. “There’s been a fair amount of research on populations that live in streams and rivers. We’re looking at populations that live in lakes in the Great Lakes area. Much less is known about those. The species does appear to be declining, but at one time it was fairly abundant throughout their range. Nobody really knows why.”
Whiles, along with Robin Warne, assistant professor of zoology, is supervising the work of SIU zoology graduate student Alicia Beattie, who is spending many hours drilling holes on frozen Wolf Lake in northern Illinois and trapping, studying and releasing the foot-long “fish with legs.” Beattie, the daughter of Jean and Joe Beattie of Hastings, Minnesota, said her favorite aspect of the research so far has been meeting and working with people from different walks of life and organizations. She also has enjoyed the many and varied challenges associated with trapping and studying mudpuppies.