On The Brink: The Wyoming Toad

“I didn’t know we even had toads in Wyoming” said Padara Thomas, an English major at the University of Wyoming. “I wouldn’t think they could live out here”

Perhaps they can’t.

The Wyoming Toad (Bufo baxteri) has been listed as critically endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1984 and is listed as “extinct in the wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international organization that ranks animals by how threatened the species is.

There are currently 500 Wyoming Toads in captivity in the U.S. and Canada in zoos and federal facilities.

Wyoming Toad
A captive Wyoming Toad at the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery.

The Wyoming Toad is native to the Laramie Plains of southeast Wyoming. The plain sits between the Laramie Mountains to the east and the Medicine Bow mountains to the west.

The original range of the Wyoming Toad is just 2,330km², smaller than the state of Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Such a small range can be detrimental to a species survival by allowing disease to quickly spread throughout a population, with devastating consequences.

http://www.fws.gov
Credit: fws.gov

The greatest threat to the Wyoming Toad currently is Chytrid Fungus, which causes lethargy, sluggishness and eventually asphyxiation in most amphibian species. Habitat loss, irrigation, drought and the use of pesticides are also factors in the toads reduced numbers.

Efforts
Despite being listed as extinct, the Wyoming toad has slowly been making a comeback due to the efforts of breeding programs like the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery’s just north of Saratoga, Wyoming.

David Paddock, a Fish Biologist at the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery,is in charge of the Wyoming Toad breeding program at the facility. The hatchery has 70 adult toads in the breeding program.

Due to the small population size of the Wyoming Toad, choosing which toads will mate is important to prevent inbreeding. “It’s done by a studbook. Our studbook keeper in Omaha will pair them up for which ones will give genetic diversity.” said Paddock

While the hatchery has 70 toads, they don’t breed all of them every year. “We hibernated 21 toads, but we lost two of them so we had 19 Wyoming Toads for breeding this year.” Said Paddock.

Hibernating is done by placing toads into a freezer to trick their bodies into thinking they have experienced winter and when they are thawed out, that mating season is beginning.

Wyoming Toad Tanks
A row of tanks containing Wyoming Toads at the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery

Those 19 captive toads generated 3620 tadpoles and 50 toadlets for release this summer in Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the protected habitat where every wild Wyoming Toad lives.

Not all of the toads reared in the facility are released “We kept some for numbers purposes.” Said Paddock. Replacing toads killed in the hibernation process or that are growing old is essential to keeping the program going.

Paddock doesn’t take his program’s toads for granted and doesn’t put young toads at risk by hibernating them. “If they are only one (year old) we give them another year to reach maturity. Especially the females.”

Most years there is at least one casualty of the hibernation process at the Saratoga facility.

Setbacks

While Paddock and his team in Saratoga are having success, that is not the case for all programs trying to breed the toads.

Sara Plesuk, Supervisor of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and her team in Omaha, Nebraska have 25-30 Wyoming Toads in their breeding program and hibernated 2 pairs for mating but were unable to produce any tadpoles for release into the wild this year. “We had no fertile eggs this year” said Plesuk. “Last year we did release 70 tadpoles.”

Plesuk hopes that next year her zoo’s program will be able to begin contribute tadpoles for introduction into the wild again.

Since the program started in 1995 the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has produced 2689 Wyoming Toad tadpoles for release into Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Nine other facilities breed the Wyoming Toad for release into the wild:

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Detroit Zoo

Kansas City Zoo

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Toledo Zoo

Como Zoo

Toronto Zoo

Red Buttes Environmental Lab (USFWS—Wyoming)

Future?

With over one hundred thousand Wyoming Toads released into the wild from all breeding facilities since 1995, Paddock is confident in the system’s ability to produce tadpoles. For him the problem seems to be getting them to thrive once released. “They face so many predators and are so dependent on water, they have it rough.”

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Multimedia Usability Analysis

Just as ergonomics is essential to the creation of a great physical product, usability is the foundation of a great website.

I will be testing overwaterunderfire.org for usability and functionality according to the Evaluating Multimedia navigation tips.

The website starts off with a short video and opens to a static screen with the name of the website against a picture in the bottom right there is an icon saying click and drag. Nothing to get confused or to be unsure about. The design is uncluttered, appealing and allows for a pleasant viewing experience.

There is one option for primary navigation. Overwaterunderfire.org is the website equivalent of a water park “lazy river”, just get in and enjoy the ride.

The video starts and a progress bar is visible at the bottom of the screen with markers for the different chapters of the video such as “dams” and “population”.

Graphics for population growth in the American west and lake Mead are clean concise and informative.

The staff editorial page is straightforward with directions on how to read the staff editorials. The about us page is easy to navigate to and easy to read but a link to read more about the staff is the same color as the rest of the text and could be overlooked.

The credits are easy to read and do not contain any links,the credits automatically scroll which is a very nice touch.

Once you watch the video and click on the credits and about us pages a small but obvious x in the upper right hand corner of the page brings you back to the video. It is never confusing to return to previous content. And links remain in the same place.

The site definitely keeps navigation simple. Most of the content comes in the form of videos that either automatically start or have a button that says “click and drag” to start the video.

The site has minimal layers of navigation.

When I looked at the site with a smartphone there was a place to write your email so they could send a reminder to look at their site from a desktop. The site isn’t that complex. They should have just had mobile users redirect straight to the main video. They definitely missed an opportunity with the mobile version.

The controls are in logical places and where they direct you is apparent.

The page lacks nonlinearity though the majority of the site but in the “about us” page there is a link to get more information about the researchers.

Everything is labeled and has a description, you’ll never be confused about where a link takes you.

Getting to the contact information of the producers is extremely easy. All it requires is a a trip to the “about us” page and clicking the link on the page to their contact information.

I had my fiance Katie look at the website and she navigated it without flaw. When prompts opened on the page she clicked them and when she needed to find the contact information it took no time at all. She navigated the post video menu from left to right, which I had expected as I followed a nearly identical path to view the website. Our opinions on the sites ease of use are the same, its intuitive, clean and informative.

If there were three things I wouldn’t want changed about the website they would be; the intro video, the swipe to play video button and the video with its chapterized progress bar. Those three things allow a user to enter the website and view all the content with just a couple of mouse clicks.

If I had to change three things I would have a play button on the initial video instead of it automatically playing. While I like the way it works I can see people wanting to choose when it starts playing. I would also change want the contact info to be on the site instead of needing to click a link to the page, though this didn’t bother me either. The third thing I would change is the mute button. While I have no issue with the button simply muting or unmuting the video I think that being able to adjust the volume with a slider is a better option for some people.

Overall overwaterunderfire.org was a pleasant and informative website that’s simplicity allowed for a confusion free browsing experience.

News Diet

I generally like to get my news for particular subjects from one or two sites. For technology news I like cnet.com because they don’t just do product reviews and launch announcements, they also write stories about legal cases relating to technology and emerging technologies.

For sports news I always use the website for the league that I am looking into, whether it is the NFL, MLB or college football. These sites generally have the most up to date information and frequently have exclusive content relating to their sports.

For general news I usually just go to yahoo.com. I am not a huge fan of their site but my email address is with them and it is too convenient not to use them. They generally have the biggest national stories on their front page and that makes it easy to see big stories.

All the news I read is slanted toward an American perspective. I do not seek out other points of view because I prefer the points of view that relate to me the most.

I feel that entertainment can be informative. Shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show contain real news delivered in a way that the average American can appreciate. Even shows that are not meant to be educational or informative can be. Archer, a cartoon about a womanizing spy with mommy issues is filled with historical references, vocabulary and grammar lessons.

Who knew the exploits of an alcoholic spy could be so educational?

Who knew the exploits of an alcoholic spy could be so educational?

My fiancé and I both have studied Journalism in college and we often share interesting news we encounter on the internet or radio. Since we both use different sources for our news I feel my news diet is far more diverse than it would be without her. We almost always disagree on the issues. Most days whether it is through Facebook, texts or the phone, one of us shares a news story we found interesting.

While I love reading and watching news I need to be better about viewing the news more regularly. Too often I will read about a story and I never find out what the end result was.