Amphibians and Reptiles in Human Areas of Settlement (SPA 05/055)

Amphibians and reptiles are amongst the most endangered organisms. Apart from global factors, such as climate change and disease, the loss of habitat is the deciding factor at a local level. In our region it is particularly important that several species have similar spatial requirements to humans and prefer thermally favourable valley settings with open vegetation. Most of these spaces were already lost during the last century through building, drainage and intensive farming.

In human settlements with sufficient green space, important alternative ways of survival are developed through the creation of small freshwater areas (e.g. ponds) and dry areas (stone piles, dry meadows, hedges). In some areas these are, apart from locations determined by industrial plants such as quarries, the last refugial spaces.

However, knowledge of the occurrence of amphibians and reptiles in human settlements is very limited. This is mainly due to the limited accessibility of gardens, which can only be mapped by involving the public. Moreover, data are lacking, documenting the effect off massive anthropological interventions in the natural succession, particularly in small freshwater bodies and their amphibian fauna. The knowledge of reptile populations in human settlements is even more limited.

In this research project, students will undertake a stock-taking in the gardens of their own family environment under scientific guidance. From a scientific point of view this has the advantage of making accessible otherwise inaccessible areas, and that information on the ‘history’ and anthropogenic influences such as design and management can be recorded. The cooperating schools are located in suburban zones, where there is a large proportion of green area, or in rural regions with a large catchment area. This is expected to significantly widen the knowledge base of the population (situation) of endangered amphibian and reptile species in anthropogenic settlement areas in Southern Styria. Students will gain insight into scientific methods and will learn to apply modern scientific research methodology.

The students will gain insight into scientific methods and will learn to apply modern scientific research methodology. They will undertake field excursions, practice the identification of animals using scientific literature under instruction in class as well as in the field, conduct interviews and learn to record and analyze data correctly. Their collaboration in teams as well as with experts will enhance their social competences. Publication of pre-scientific papers or publications in appropriate media will enable individual students to deepen their insights into a professional scientific career.



Centre of Natural History

Weinzöttlstraße 16
8045 Graz, Österreich
T +43-316/8017-9000