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Semester at CMAST Students Head Start Endangered Gopher Frogs

Rhianna and Morgan are pictured at the Holly Shelter Game Lands.

Two NC State Semester at CMAST students, Rhianna Absher and Morgan Cumberland, are head starting endangered Gopher Frogs this spring.  Rhianna is leading the Gopher Frog Headstarting project under the mentorship of Dr. Carol Price, NC State University instructor and conservation research coordinator for NC Aquariums. Rhianna is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in environmental science, with a focus on marine ecology and minors in marine sciences, forest management, and environmental education. Morgan, who is assisting with the head starting project, is a junior majoring in biological sciences with a minor in marine science.  

Rhianna and Morgan are currently caring for approximately 300 gopher frog tadpoles that were originally collected as eggs from the Holly Shelter Game Lands in Pender County, NC.  Each day, Rhianna and Morgan feed, observe, and conduct water quality tests on the tadpoles. The tadpoles are being raised in outdoor mesocosms at CMAST, where, according to Rhianna, “They are beginning to grow hind legs and are coming up to the top of the tank more frequently for air.” This summer when the tadpoles metamorph into frogs, they will be released at the Holly Shelter ponds where the eggs were originally collected.

This work is being conducted in partnership with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission with the goal of increasing the population size of this state endangered species. Rhianna and Morgan hope their work to headstart gopher frogs will increase the stability of the species for generations to come!