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From Responsible Herpetoculture Journal, 'Advancing the conservation of the foul and loathsome creatures of the Southeastern United States' - May 2024

By Mark Mandica

"A decade ago, US Fish & Wildlife held a meeting in Starkville, Mississippi USA to address the imminent extinction of two enigmatic southeastern ambystomatid (mole) salamanders: Ambystoma cingulatum and A. bishopi. Collectively known as the ‘flatwoods salamanders’, these species were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1999 (as threatened and endangered, respectively), and since then, their populations have continued to decline by 90%. In attendance at this meeting were several stakeholders (state and federal agency officials, leading salamander ecologists, staff from San Antonio Zoo and what is now the Amphibian Foundation - AF). The goal was to begin drafting a federal Recovery Plan — a plan to ‘recover’ the species to the degree it no longer needs protection under the ESA. A Recovery Plan is legally required documentation for any species listed under the ESA, and is meant to guide the multi-faceted conservation action for the species of concern. It was determined at that meeting in 2014 that it would be necessary to establish captive survival-assurance colonies (CSCs) for both the Frosted (A. cingulatum) and Reticulated (A. bishopi) Flatwoods Salamanders in order to prevent an extinction level event for these amphibians. The Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (2007), which aims to coordinate global conservation efforts for amphibians, states that “In the face of overwhelming and sometimes acute threats to many amphibians, such as disease or habitat destruction, the only hope in the short-term for populations and species at imminent risk of extinction is immediate rescue for the establishment and management of captive survival-assurance colonies.”

In 2016, the Amphibian Foundation founded with the single purpose of stopping the extinction of the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (our logo is a larval flatwoods salamander), and immediately set up indoor and outdoor labs at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Atlanta to house genetic populations of ‘Frosties’ as a CSC. The Amphibian Foundation held the only ex situ (outside of the natural location) population of Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders in the world, and immediately began developing protocols for the successful hatching, rearing, and management of this CSC in the laboratory."



Since then, AF has centered inclusivity in partnerships, development, and recruitment. As we've grown as an organization and community (please see below), we expanded the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander conservation program by spearheading a Conservation Breeding Working Group with other leaders in the field. Plus, have added additional conservation priorities, examining many different aspects of biology, ecology, conservation, education, and communication in and around amphibians — the beloved slimy underdogs.

Most people aren't even aware that amphibians are disappearing from our ponds, streams, forests, and wetlands all around the world, so we undergird these critical conservation projects with comprehensive and dynamic educational programs that start with 0-5 year olds at Critter Café on Sundays and all the way up to a year-long gap-year immersive training program — the Conservation Research Bridge Program.

AF is dedicated to connecting individuals, communities, and organizations in order to create and implement lasting solutions to the global amphibian extinction crisis.

Co-founders

Mark Mandica

Mark Mandica

Founder, Executive Director Mark is a life-long amphibian conservationist, and leads novel conservation studies focused on endangered species. He is also a biologist, scientific illustrator, instructor, and musician. Most importantly, he is a father and husband.

Crystal Mandica

Crystal Mandica

Founder, Director of Education Crystal has piloted many unique, exciting programs, introducing thousands of students to amphibians and reptiles. She is the founder and director Critter Camp and manages the Research and Education Laboratories at AF.

 

AF is about connecting folks with amphibians — We are working with so many truly exceptional people and organizations, below highlights a good number of them.


Conservation Research Bridge Program


Mark Mandica

Mark Mandica

Executive Director
Crystal Mandica

Crystal Mandica

Director of Education
Roxana Pena Popo

Roxana Pena Popo

Research Coordinator
Ashley Byrd

Ashley Byrd

Conservation Collections Coordinator
Maura Dudley

Maura Dudley

Urban Ecologist
Sasha Greenspan

Sasha Greenspan

Amphibian Disease Biologist
Marjan Ghadrdan

Marjan Ghadrdan

Venomous Programs Coordinator
John Measey

John Measey

Invasion Biologist
Erin Thibodeau

Erin Thibodeau

Bridge Program Coordinator
Casey Perkins

Casey Perkins

Field Biologist
John Palis

John Palis

Consulting Biologist
Kevin Blackwell

Kevin Blackwell

Staff Photographer


Education


Crystal Mandica

Crystal Mandica

Director of Education
Amanda Dahlgren

Amanda Dahlgren

Education Coordinator

Taylor Cone

Taylor Cone

Educational Programs Coordinator

Boris Berlijn

Boris Berlijn

Virtual Education Coordinator

Marjan Ghadrdan

Marjan Ghadrdan

Venomous + Adult Programs Coordinator

Meg Hussey

Meg Hussey

Events Coordinator
Erin Shebish

Erin Shebish

Virtual Education Administrator

Maryann Barbon

Maryann Barbon

Educator

Roxana Pena Popo

Roxana Pena Popo

Educator

Tina Bullock

Tina Bullock

Educator

Jessica Shartouny

Jessica Shartouny

Educator

Tess Yaney

Tess Yaney

Educator

Thomas Geaslen

Thomas Geaslen

Educator

Phoebe Offenberg

Phoebe Offenberg

Educator

Sami Netherton

Sami Netherton

Educator

Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman

Educator

Jeffrey Weiss

Jeffrey Weiss

Field Educator

Julio Winhold

Julio Winhold

Special Educator

Mireille Lofquist

Mireille Lofquist

Lizard Transportation Specialist


Collections


Crystal Mandica

Crystal Mandica

Collections Manager

Amanda Dahlgren

Amanda Dahlgren

Laboratory Manager & Invertebraculturist

Jeffrey Weiss

Jeffrey Weiss

Facilities Manager

Ashley Byrd

Ashley Byrd

Conservation Collections Coordinator

Michaela Daniel

Michaela Daniel

Inventory Specialist

Barb Marston

Barb Marston

Collections Volunteer

Cassie Ashby

Cassie Ashby

Collections Volunteer

Brittany Szafran

Brittany Szafran

Collections Volunteer

Nicholas Holmes

Nicholas Holmes

Collections Volunteer

Raquel Gonzalez

Raquel Gonzalez

Collections Volunteer

Jess Jemper

Jess Jemper

Collections Volunteer

Karl Guyton II

Karl Guyton II

Collections Volunteer

Brian Richards

Brian Richards

Collections Volunteer

Mireille Lofquist

Mireille Lofquist

Collections Volunteer

Nadine Contreras

Nadine Contreras

Collections Volunteer

Phoebe Offenberg

Phoebe Offenberg

Collections Volunteer

Arina Alexandrova

Arina Alexandrova

Collections Volunteer

Brodie Horn

Brodie Horn

Collections Volunteer

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis

Collections Volunteer

Laurel Tree

Laurel Tree

Collections Volunteer

Caleb Whittington

Caleb Whittington

Collections Volunteer

Sandra Adams

Sandra Adams

Collections Volunteer

Alec Keodara

Alec Keodara

Collections Volunteer

Maggie Nesbit

Maggie Nesbit

Collections Volunteer

Bill Bohling

Bill Bohling

Collections Volunteer

Kyunghee Moon

Kyunghee Moon

Collections Volunteer

Cole Harmon

Cole Harmon

Collections Volunteer

Chinmoy Paul

Chinmoy Paul

Collections Volunteer

Gabriela Herbert

Gabriela Herbert

Collections Volunteer

Rett Tolentino

Rett Tolentino

Collections Assistant

Anthony Mandica

Anthony Mandica

Collections Assistant & Namer


Communications


Erin Shebish

Erin Shebish

Communications Lead

Meg Hussey

Meg Hussey

Social Media Coordinator

Brie Chilton

Brie Chilton

Content Writer

Emily Capps

Emily Capps

Content Strategist

Jess Thompson

Jess Thompson

Content Analyst

Hikari Miya

Hikari Miya

Magazine Editor

Tess Yaney

Tess Yaney

Staff Photographer

Kevin Blackwell

Kevin Blackwell

Staff Photographer


Venom


Marjan Ghadrdan

Marjan Ghadrdan

Venomous Programs Coordinator

Vahab Rajaei

Vahab Rajaei

Copperhead Hotline Coordinator & Venom Instructor

Sami Netherton

Sami Netherton

Venom Instructor

Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman

Venom Instructor

Amanda Dahlgren

Amanda Dahlgren

Venom Instructor


Board of Advisors


Dorothy Winhold

Dorothy Winhold

Berkshire Hathaway
Board Chair
Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore

National Geographic and Photo Ark
Laura Turner Seydel (Advisor)

Laura Turner Seydel (Advisor)

Turner Foundation and Captain Planet Foundation
Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman

Chris Jenkins

Chris Jenkins

Orianne Society
Nancy Jones

Nancy Jones

Blue Heron Nature Preserve


Science Advisory Board


Tobias Landberg

Tobias Landberg

Science Advisory Board Chair

Duncan Irschick

Duncan Irschick

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Susan Walls

Susan Walls

USGS - Amphibian Research & Monitoring Initiative

John Jensen

John Jensen

Georgia Department of Natural Resources (retired)
Jen Stabile

Jen Stabile

Army Corps of Engineers
Harold Mitchell

Harold Mitchell

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Andrew Gray

Andrew Gray

The Manchester Museum


AF Alumni

We are grateful for the opportunities to work with so many amazing, passionate, and dedicated people along the way ...

Abbie German

Abbie German

Abbie Loughman

Abbie Loughman

Abby Needell

Abby Needell

Abby Tharp

Abby Tharp

Ahmad Ansar

Ahmad Ansar

Alexa Ponder

Alexa Ponder

Ajoke Ifarinu-Ojelade

Ajoke Ifarinu-Ojelade

Alex Jimenez

Alex Jimenez

Alyssa Bachmeier

Alyssa Bachmeier

Amanda Ramirez

Amanda Ramirez

Amanda Sargent

Amanda Sargent

Ana Luisa Ahern

Ana Luisa Ahern

Anna Mayrand

Anna Mayrand

Audrey Pepi

Audrey Pepi

Becca Rodriguez

Becca Rodriguez

Bella Kezios

Bella Kezios

Bree Gentry

Bree Gentry

Brooke Clark

Brooke Clark

Camelia Hood

Camelia Hood

Cammie Caldwell

Cammie Caldwell

Carola Garcia Manzano

Carola Garcia Manzano

Charifa Sidi

Charifa Sidi

Chelsea DesJardins

Chelsea DesJardins

Cheri Robinson

Cheri Robinson

Cheyenne Hogan

Cheyenne Hogan

Christine Beard

Christine Beard

Claire Chinery

Claire Chinery

Dani Davis

Dani Davis

Dani Glover

Dani Glover

Danielle Crownover

Danielle Crownover

Danya Vass

Danya Vass

Davisha Tuitt

Davisha Tuitt

Dixie Currey

Dixie Currey

DJ Welch

DJ Welch

Eden Nitza

Eden Nitza

Einola Carter

Einola Carter

Elizabeth Gritzmacher

Elizabeth Gritzmacher

Ellen Dymit

Ellen Dymit

Elliott Diggs

Elliott Diggs

Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds

Emma Brown

Emma Brown

Emma Slutsker

Emma Slutsker

Erica Fischer

Erica Fischer

Erin Frew

Erin Frew

Evan Holland

Evan Holland

Gabe Andrle

Gabe Andrle

Helana Broome

Helana Broome

Henry Adams

Henry Adams

Isabella Challis

Isabella Challis

Jake Kassel

Jake Kassel

Jasmine Little

Jasmine Little

Jasmine Williamson

Jasmine Williamson

Javiera Constanzo

Javiera Constanzo

Jennifer Turner

Jennifer Turner

Jenny Wilson

Jenny Wilson

Jermiko Sims

Jermiko Sims

Jin Uzeda

Jin Uzeda

Juan Taquechel

Juan Taquechel

Katie Clayton

Katie Clayton

Katie Roberts

Katie Roberts

Kellen Murphy

Kellen Murphy

Kelsey Strickland

Kelsey Strickland

Kendra Hernandez

Kendra Hernandez

Kiedon Bryant

Kiedon Bryant

Kyra Bassett

Kyra Bassett

Lacey Avery

Lacey Avery

Leo Ware

Leo Ware

Lyssa-Jean Yonezawa

Lyssa-Jean Yonezawa

Marty Sims

Marty Sims

Maya Nelson

Maya Nelson

Maya Risin

Maya Risin

Melanie Valle

Melanie Valle

Michael Berry

Michael Berry

Miranda Pederson

Miranda Pederson

Morgan Peek

Morgan Peek

Polly Strott

Polly Strott

Ryan Myers

Ryan Myers

Sam Mae

Sam Mae

Sean Goggin

Sean Goggin

Shania Osgood

Shania Osgood

Sierra Sutton

Sierra Sutton

Shiloh Bauer

Shiloh Bauer

Sophia Charuhas

Sophia Charuhas

Susan Sweeney

Susan Sweeney

Susie Masecar DVM

Susie Masecar DVM

Tessa Cafritz

Tessa Cafritz

Tessa Winbigler

Tessa Winbigler

TieuAnh Phung

TieuAnh Phung

Victoria Gould

Victoria Gould

Virginia Williams

Virginia Williams

Will Peninger

Will Peninger

William Cooper

William Cooper

Yarrow Koning

Yarrow Koning

Yi Yin

Yi Yin


Foundational Partners


US Fish and Wildlife Service

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Flatwoods Salamander Recovery Team leader | We have worked with USFWS since 2012 on a recovery plan for the imperiled flatwoods salamanders - Ambystoma cingulatum and A. bishopi. Most recently, we are working with the service on the captive breeding and experimental release of Gopher Frogs, Rana capito.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Flatwoods Salamander Recovery Team member | We have partnered with GA DNR since 2009 on Gopher Frog, Flatwoods Salamander, and other native amphibian initiatives. We also work with them on outreach projects and amphibian monitoring in the state.

US Geological Survey

US Geological Survey

Flatwoods Salamander Recovery Team member | We have partnered with USGS for two major initiatives. The first was in 2003 for a Critical Ecosystems project modeling amphibian communities in Everglades National Park, FL and most recently on the recovery plan for flatwoods salamanders. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife

Florida Fish and Wildlife

Flatwoods Salamander Recovery Team member | We work with FFWCC at the Florida sites for Ambystoma cingulatum, the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander, mostly with field sampling of larvae at St Marks Wildlife Refuge and Appalachicola National Forest. We also collaborate on the Striped Newt Repatriation Program.

The Turner Foundation

The Turner Foundation

The Turner Foundation has been a huge supporter of our work, particularly with the recovery of the federally listed Frosted Flatwoods Salamander. The Turner Foundation's support enabled us to build the Flatwoods Salamander Lab and the Amphibian Research and Conservation Center.

Turner Endangered Species Fund

Turner Endangered Species Fund

We are partnering with the Turner Endangered Species fund on a comprehensive amphibian study of the Avalon property in north Florida, as well as habitat restoration work for the conservation of four target imperiled amphibian species from that region: Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders, Gopher Frogs, Striped Newts, and Ornate Chorus Frogs.

Andrew Sabin Family Foundation

Andrew Sabin Family Foundation

Andy Sabin and the ASFF have been a important partner in their support of the construction of the Amphibian Research and Conservation Center. The A.R.C.C. is a completely unique conservation tool, located at the Amphibian Foundation for one purpose: the captive propagation of imperiled North American amphibians. It wouldn't have been possible without the contributions of the ASFF.

Southern Conservation Partners

Southern Conservation Partners

Southern Conservation Partners helps local initiatives and communities across the southern U.S. to save, restore, and enhance premier environmental resources and natural heritage assets. We promote innovative collaborations designed to conserve and honor the South's natural heritage and ecological health. SCP is the fiscal sponsor of the Amphibian Foundation.

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

AF is closely aligned in mission and dedication with PARC and works with them on Amphibian Week and many other initiatives

Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

We have worked closely with SEPARC over the past 15 years, sponsoring meetings, and collaborating in projects with Souhtheastern amphibians.

PhotoArk

PhotoArk

We have worked with Joel Sartore on both his Photo Ark initiative and on the feature documentary — Racing Extinction. He is on our Board of Directors and has been a huge supporter of our work, including the incredible donation of his Vanishing Amphibians exhibit of incredible photography, which is on permanent display in our Amphibious AF Class Room.

University of Georgia

University of Georgia

We partner with the Maerz Lab at the University of Georgia on many amphibian research and conservation projects in the Southeast.


Flatwoods Salamander Conservation Partners


US Fish and Wildlife Service
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
US Geological Survey
Florida Fish and Wildlife
The Turner Foundation
Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy
Savannah River Ecology Lab
Virginia Tech
Tangled Bank Conservation
San Antonio Zoo
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
North Carolina Zoo
Brevard Zoo
Manchester Museum
Center for Biological Diversity


Striped Newt Conservation Partners


Coastal Plains Institute
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
University of Georgia
Florida Fish and Wildlife
Tall Timbers
Central Florida Zoo
Lowry Park Zoo
Jacksonville Zoo
Detroit Zoo
Noise Engineering


Gopher Frog Conservation Partners


US Fish and Wildlife Service
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
University of Georgia
Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


Blue-spotted Salamander Conservation Partners


South Fork Museum of Natural History
New York Department of Environmental Conservation


Amphibian Conservation Partners


Captain Planet
Orianne Society
SalamanderFungus.org
Disappearing Frogs Project
Project Lemur Frog
Remembrance Day for Lost Species
Georgia Crickets


Education, Outreach and Communication Partners


Georgia Department of Natural Resources
PARC
West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
PARC DEITT
Captain Planet
Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
PhotoArk
Atlanta Science Tavern
Georgia Reptile Society
Atlanta Audubon Society
AdoptAStream
Atlanta Science Festival
Atlanta Urban Ecologists
The Friends School of Atlanta
Rattlesnake Conservancy
The Turtle Conservancy
Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy
Environmental Voter Project
Afro Herper - Earyn McGee
Science for Georgia
Project Polliwog


University Partners


Agnes Scott College
University of Georgia
Oglethorpe University
Georgia Tech
Savannah River Ecology Lab
Virginia Tech
University of Massachusetts
Georgia State University
Berry College
University of Oklahoma