Wildlife and Habitat at Mount Auburn

June 29, 2017

Mount Auburn has become a living laboratory for scientists pursuing the study of biodiversity.  We’ve recently embarked on projects with citizen scientists, consulting scientists, professors and students from Lesley and Tufts Universities, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).  Highlights include:

*Phenology – by collecting data regarding the life cycles of deciduous trees and shrubs, citizen scientists are helping to document changes in the timing of bud break, leaf emergence, flowering, fall color change, leaf drop, and fruit and seed dispersal.  This information will help determine if the insects that hatch and feed on the emerging leaves and flowers are still available to the migratory birds that have not altered the timing of their spring journeys.

* Microclimate – by collecting citizen science data on ambient temperature, relative humidity, dew points, surface temperature, sun exposure, and wet/dry conditions in 18 designated areas of the cemetery, and comparing them to weather station data for the surrounding area, we will better understand the microclimates present at Mount Auburn and this will help instruct the future plant selection for specific landscapes.

*Assessment / Monitoring of Fish, Amphibians & Reptiles

**Acoustic Monitoring and Reporting for the reintroduction of native amphibians. This monitoring has confirmed that we have successfully reintroduced breeding populations of three native amphibians at Mount Auburn – American toad, Spring peeper, and Gray treefrog.

**Spotted Salamander monitoring (as reported in last month’s eternally green article) may indicate that adequate spring precipitation has benefited the reproductive cycle of this native amphibian.  Thirty-eight egg masses were documented in 2017, while only six egg masses were observed during the drought of 2016.

**Eastern red-backed salamander reintroduction will be implemented during the fall of 2017.  The red-backed salamander is common to our area and Mount Auburn provides suitable habitat in which this native amphibian may thrive.

*Assessment / Monitoring of Bird Habitat – Mount Auburn has been designated by Mass Audubon as one of 79 important bird areas.  This study collects metrics on species abundance and composition for migrant and breeding birds in areas of habitat improvements at Mount Auburn.

*Additional Biodiversity Research:

**Fireflies – to determine the impact of urban light on reproductive signaling.

**Dragonflies – to determine species abundance and composition.

**Bats – to document species presence, population size, and health at Mount Auburn.

**Citizen science ant study – to collect and identify ant species.

**Pollinators – to determine species abundance and composition.

**Air quality – to compare our urban wildlife refuge with the surrounding area.

**Social science – to determine what compels citizen scientists to become involved in research.


About the Author: Paul Kwiatkowski

Paul is Mount Auburn Cemetery's Director of Urban Ecology & Sustainability. View all posts by Paul Kwiatkowski →

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