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RALEIGH, N.C. (April 26) - In the past, it's been difficult for biologists to gather large amounts of data on many reptiles and amphibians, but with your help that's about to change.

The Carolina Herp Atlas, a new online database developed by Davidson College and partly funded by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, will harness the power of "backyard biologists" with an interactive Web site that could shed new light on countless animals across North and South Carolina.

"Many species of amphibians and reptiles are very difficult to sample because they're either rare, difficult to find or active at times that make it tough," said Mike Dorcas, an associate professor with Davidson's biology department. "The Carolina Herp Atlas provides a method where we can rapidly collect information on the distribution of amphibians and reptiles, and that information is desperately needed for us to make management decisions."

Designed by Davidson's Herpetology Laboratory and Information Technology programs, the Atlas uses observations from citizen scientists to track herp distributions in the Carolinas.

"In the past, we've relied on a small number of herpetologists to provide the critical information that is used by the Wildlife Resources Commission to prioritize conservation activities for reptiles and amphibians," said Chris McGrath, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. "The Carolina Herp Atlas is a powerful new tool that gives all citizens an opportunity to contribute scientific information that will help the Commission achieve our wildlife conservation goals."

The Atlas also allows users an easy way to maintain a personal database of the reptiles and amphibians they observe. Any visitor to the site can view county-level distribution, while registered users can keep track of their observations on an individual basis, including the ability to pinpoint the exact location of their sightings. Digital photos can also be uploaded for verification of the species' identification.

Wildlife biologists and herpetologists will use these data to understand activity periods, habitat relationships, distributions, conservation status and other facets of herpetology, thus making more informed decisions about managing wildlife in the Carolinas.

For more information or to become a member, visit the Carolina Herp Atlas at
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