Yesterday Salamander Savers 4-H club braved the weather and made it to Richmond. Even though the schedule changed multiple times that day, everyone made the most of being at the Capitol. Senator Black was kind enough to welcome us to the Senate chamber where we watched several bills being voted on and the kids got to learn the process of how a bill becomes a law first hand. We were thrilled that he made his way up to the gallery just to meet us! We wandered into the Old Senate and House Chambers and learned a little bit about the history and it's architect, Thomas Jefferson. Then it was time to lobby in the Senate, asking for support of HB459. Several of our members went room to room searching out Senators and their legislative assistants to tell them about the red salamander. We were fortunate enough to catch Senator Black in the hallway where he answered many of our questions and swapped salamander photos with us. We are truly grateful for all the time that Senator Black gave us and the fantastic stories about the swamps of Florida that he shared with us. It made the day memorable. Finally we were called into the Committee on General Laws and Technology where the kids were able to address the Senators and explain why we feel HB459 should become a law. The Committee will be voting next Monday where we are hoping it will pass and then eventually make it to the Senate floor. We are one step closer!
Members of Salamander Savers 4-H club watched as the red salamander slipped one step closer to becoming the state salamander of Virginia. Five young environmentalists didn’t stop long to celebrate their victory, instead they walked over to the Senate office buildings and started lobbying for the next round of voting that will happen in the upcoming weeks. Salamander Savers 4-H club hopes that soon the red salamander will be a state emblem and raise awareness for salamander populations across the state.
We were fortunate to be interviewed by ABC news about the kids efforts to promote the red salamander and their work with the HB459. Evanne Armour was patient with all of our questions and took time to draw out each child's individual experience through the process of promoting the bill. We are so grateful to her for the piece that she did on us because she really did highlight what we thought was the most important part of this legislative process. She helped us give salamanders a spotlight and for that we are truly grateful. Thank you Evanne and ABC news!
Here are some highlights:
Members of Salamander Savers 4-H Club were in Richmond again today to lobby on behalf of the red salamander. Young environmentalists from Fairfax and Williamsburg visited lawmakers asking them to support HB 459 which would name the red salamander the state salamander of Virginia. HB 459 passed the full committee of General Laws today.
Salamander Savers 4-H club has been working diligently over the past year trying to raise awareness for salamanders and their environment. Several members spoke last week at the General Assembly during the subcommittee hearing for the bill. These young naturalists believe that naming a state salamander will help them spread the word about the importance of salamanders across Virginia. The Fairfax Times wrote a nice article on our work this week.
On Thursday, January 25, Salamander Savers visited the VA General Assembly to help defend HB 459 in front of the subcommittee on General Laws. Even though the children were nervous, they did a fantastic job raising awareness for the salamanders that they love. The subcommittee voted and passed the bill, so our next stop is the full committee. Here are some highlights:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/15/2018
Salamander Savers 4-H Club Nominates the Red Salamander for the State of Virginia
Delegate Eileen Filler-corn has written HB 459 on behalf of the Salamander Savers 4-H Club to nominate the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia.
Fairfax, VA Over the last year, Salamander Savers 4-H Club has been asking local lawmakers to help them recognize a state salamander to raise awareness for salamander populations across the state. Virginia is home to 56 different species of salamanders, but Salamander Savers 4-H Club believes the red salamander, pseudotriton ruber, best represents the state of Virginia. The red salamander is widely spread throughout Virginia and inhabits a variety of woodland habitats. Virginia would be the first state to nominate the red salamander as its state salamander.
Jonah Kim, the president of Salamander Savers 4-H Club, started the club with his brothers three years ago in response to the dredging of Woodglen Lake. Since then, Salamander Savers 4-H Club has grown in numbers and has taken part in numerous ecological activities, ranging from stream monitoring to salamander surveys. This year Salamander Savers hopes to see HB 459 pass, which would name the red salamander Virginia’s official state salamander.
Salamander Savers has been working diligently to nominate the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia; however, Salamander Savers still needs your help. Please call, write, or email your representatives in Richmond and ask them to support HB 459, which names the red salamander as Virginia’s official state salamander. There is a link to find your representatives on our website as well as a sample letter https://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/help-red-salamander.html
About Salamander Savers 4-H Club: Salamander Savers is an ecologically based 4-H group that tries to find solutions to environmental problems. To learn more about Salamander Savers, visit our website at https://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/
Please contact Anna Kim with any questions: email@example.com
written by Gabriel and Jonah Kim
On a cold, dreary Saturday at Hidden Pond, Salamander Savers made preparations for Salamander Saturday, a public event that focuses on educating the community about salamanders and the environment. Despite the stormy weather, almost forty people attended Salamander Saturday. For our younger guests, we created numerous salamander related games, such as Salamander Mazes and Where do Salamanders Live. We also constructed a number of display boards that contained information about salamanders and the environment. Some of our posters included: Salamanders that Live in Fairfax, What You Can Do to Reduce Pollution, Salamander Life Cycle, Facts about Salamanders, and Wriggling Worms and Slippery Salamanders. Despite the many fantastic display boards we presented at Salamander Saturday, the crown jewel of this event were our two, slimy guests: a marbled salamander and a spotted salamander. These two amphibians enjoyed this rather wet Salamander Saturday and got to meet Delegate Eileen Filler-corn, a member of the Virginia General Assembly. During her stay, Eileen agreed to help Salamander Savers in advocating for the Shenandoah Salamander as the state amphibian of Virginia, a group project that was started last January. Even though the weather was dreary, Salamander Saturday was a great success for our group, and we look forward to nominating the Shenandoah Salamander as the state amphibian of Virginia.
by Jonah Kim
Did you know that the Shenandoah salamander can breathe through its skin?! The Shenandoah salamander is part of the family Plethodon, which is a group of salamanders (lungless salamanders) that breathe though their skin. However, in order to have successful respiration these salamanders must have moist skin.
Did you know the Shenandoah salamander can eat anything that fits into its mouth? Its diet ranges to miniature ants to humongous earthworms. It also eats common pests, such as malicious mosquitoes, slimy slugs, and grimy grubs. The only thing that limits the Shenandoah salamander's diet is the size of its mouth since the salamander is only 7-10 cm. in length!
The Shenandoah salamander only lives inside Virginia, no where else! The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is an endangered salamander that only lives inside Virginia, Shenandoah Nation Park on three mountaintops. This salamander prefers cool and moist environments high in the mountains.
How long have salamanders been around? Due to extensive research, scientists have found out that salamanders evolved around 200 million years ago!!! Modern day humans have only evolved about 200,000 years ago!
How does the Shenandoah salamander help the environment? This salamander helps the environment by eating pests, soil aeration by burrowing, and helping decompose the forest floor.
Salamander Savers petition, Salamander Savers is trying to nominate the Shenandoah salamander the state amphibian of Virginia. We would appreciate your support for nominating this salamander. Here is a link to our website and petition. Http://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/
by Gabriel Kim
On January 24, 2017, our group, Salamander Savers, took a trip to the capitol of Virginia. We talked to three delegates and a senator about the activities that Salamander Savers performs. We also asked them about how to advocate for a state salamander, and if it was possible to remove salamanders from the DGIF bait list. We got a lot of useful information from the people that we talked to, and now we know how to start advocating for a state salamander. Our trip to the capitol was informative and enjoyable. We got to tour the the capitol, listen to the General Assembly while it was in session, converse with our state representatives, and learn how we can make the Shenandoah Salamander the state salamander of Virginia.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SALAMANDERS: By G. C. Kim
Currently, fishing with salamanders is legal in Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and many other states throughout the U.S. Although salamanders are used widely as bait, they should be taken off of the bait list because they are beneficial to the environment. Salamanders are a keystone species, which means that the environment is dependent on their well-being. Therefore, by using salamanders as bait, fishermen are harming the environment, as well as salamanders. Another reason why salamanders are so beneficial to the environment is because they help reduce the effects of global warming. Lastly, fishermen should not use salamanders as bait because by fishing with them they could potentially be spreading Chytrid, a fungal disease that has decimated the world's amphibian populations. Salamanders should be removed from the bait list because of these three reasons.
Firstly, salamanders should be removed from the bait list because they are a keystone species. A keystone species is an abundant species that helps maintain the health of the environment. According to researchers from the University of Missouri, the average population of salamanders in wooded areas of the Missouri Ozarks is two to four times higher than expected. On the east coast it is ten times higher than expected (Sossamon 1). While salamanders are abundant, they face numerous threats. Currently, they face habitat destruction, a deadly disease, water pollution, and fishermen. If these threats are not regulated, then this keystone species may die off. The Wandering Herpetologist, an organization that specializes in studying amphibians, made a prediction about what would happen if salamanders start to die off. “...salamanders (and other amphibians) are very important to the health of forests. Since they make up such a large biomass of an area as they experience more and more population declines so do other species that rely on them” (Viernum 3). This means that if salamanders start to die, the environment will start to die as well. This also implies that by using salamanders as bait fishermen are crippling other animals that rely on salamanders, which in turn damages the environment.
While the environment is dependent on the well-being of salamanders, these creatures actually play an important role in the global carbon cycle. This important role was discussed by the California Academy of Science. Researchers from northern California created two isolated environments and filled one of the enclosures with Ensatina, a type of salamander. Since salamanders prey on insects that break down leaf litter into carbon, the researchers expected to find less amounts of carbon in the enclosure with the Ensatina than the one without. Over a period of two seasons, the researchers found that their assumption was correct. The enclosure that had Ensatina had lower carbon levels than the enclosure that did not have Ensatina (Michelson 2). In their article explaining their experiment, the researchers attempted to calculate how much carbon the Ensatina prevented from being released into the atmosphere. They found that “...across the range of Ensatina this would equate to 72.3 metric tons of C retained by this one species in a single season, preventing it from entering the atmosphere” (Best and Welsh 17). Salamanders are not just essential to the environment, but they are also important to the global carbon cycle as well. On top of being a keystone species, these creatures also help mitigate global warming. By using them as bait, fishermen are not only hurting the environment but increasing the effects of global warming.
The final reason why salamanders shouldn't be used as bait is because that when anglers fish with them, they have the risk of spreading Chytrid. According to Amphibiaweb, a website that provides a vast storage of knowledge on amphibians, Chytrid is a deadly fungal disease that only affects amphibians. This deadly disease has already eradicated a large portion of the world's amphibian population (Yap and Koo 1-2). Amphibian Ark, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for Chytrid, said as follows: “...the most common way that Bd zoospores spread from place to place are in water, moist or wet materials (including soil or equipment) or on the skin of infected amphibians” (Amphibian Ark 2). Since Chytrid spreads through the skin of contaminated amphibians, if a fisherman used an infected salamander as bait, he would be spreading Chytrid. Upon being spread, Chytrid would steadily wipe out all salamanders in the area, which would cause the surrounding environment to deteriorate in health.
Salamanders are important to the health of the environment. The environment depends on them to mitigate global warming. These facts are why salamanders should be taken off of all bait lists. In addition to that, by outlawing salamanders as bait, the chances of Chytrid spreading would be considerably reduced. If salamanders are continued to be used as bait, these creatures will eventually disappear. Then the environment will suffer, and the effects of global warming will escalate. The first step to helping these creatures is to stop using them as bait.
Best, Michael, and Hartwell Welsh. “The trophic role of a forest salamander: impacts on invertebrates, leaf litter retention, and the humification process.”
Ecological Society of America, 10 February 2014,
Accessed 14 Dec. 2016.
Amphibian Ark, n.d.,
Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.
Michelson, Molly. “Salmanders' Important Role.”
California Academy of Science, 16 April 2014,
Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.
Sossamon, Jeff. “Salamanders Are a More Abundant Food Source in Forest Ecosystems Than Previously Thought.” University of Missouri, 18 November 2014,
Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.
Viernum, Sara. “The Importance of Amphibians.”
The Wandering Herpetologist, 14 May 2012,
Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.
Yap, Tiffany, and Michelle Koo. “Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans: Deadly fungal threat to salamanders.” Amphibiaweb, July 31 2015,
Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.
This weekend Salamander Savers 4-H Club talked to over 300 people about salamanders. The kids collected 91 signatures to address a law that they felt should be changed, specifically pertaining to using salamanders as bait. The kids advocated that using salamanders could actually be hurting the environment, as many of our local salamanders could carry chytrid (the disease that wiped out the amphibian populations in South America.) Removing them from an environment and introducing them into another (if they get off the hook, or are ingested by a fish that is not caught-) could spread the disease further. Salamanders are also notoriously loyal to their vernal pools. Taking them during the breeding season could potentially wipe out a species, considering that about 1-2% of the eggs laid actually make it to reproductive maturity. The kids also objected to the section of law that pertains to shooting bullfrogs. The DGIF website states : "Bullfrogs may also be taken by gigging or bow and arrow and from private waters by firearms no larger than .22 caliber rimfire." The children thought it was unnecessary to discharge a firearm to kill a bullfrog and it seemed cruel. I am proud of the kids because they gave a voice to animals who cannot speak for themselves.