Fall 2017

And the Survey Says…

A biodiversity assessment reveals the many kinds of fauna living on the Grafton campus.

By Francis Storrs

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White-tailed deer, the most common mammal encountered, were identified 203 times, including with this night photo from a camera trap. Photo: Tufts Environmental Interdisciplinary Research Project

A Tufts team recently undertook an ambitious project: a biodiversity assessment of all 594 acres of the Grafton campus. The four-month project, sponsored by the Tufts Institute of the Environment, was led by project directors Alison Robbins, V92, AG89, assistant director of Tufts’ M.S. in conservation medicine program, and senior GIS specialist Carolyn Talmadge, EG14, and carried out by Irene Galana Lecona and Adel Molnar, 2016 graduates of the M.S. in conservation medicine program, and Matt Kamm, a Ph.D. candidate in biology. Here’s some of what they found.

Northern Green Frog. Photos: iStock


After creating a detailed map, the researchers hiked target areas using dip nets to sample aquatic habitats. They collected larval amphibians from the nets with teaspoons to avoid harming them.

Total number of species observed. Two were reptiles (Eastern garter snake and common snapping turtle), and four amphibians (gray tree frog, Northern green frog, spring peeper tadpole, and two-lined salamander).

Northern Green Frog
The most common species identified, with eight sightings was the northern green frog.

Since juvenile snapping turtles and eggs have many predators, the survival of adults is essential to the survival of a species in a local environment. The main threats, the researchers explain, include road crossing and habitat loss because of human development.

Bobolink. Photo: Tufts Environmental Interdisciplinary Research Project 2016


Researchers used satellite images and other info to analyze habitats, then biology Ph.D. student Matt Kamm, professor Michael Reed, and others identified species by sight and by their calls.

Total number of bird species identified, including wild turkey, Eastern bluebird, barred owl and white-breasted nuthatch.

Nearly 1,800 Miles
The length of migration of the 1/2-ounce blackpoll warbler, from the forests of Canada to their wintering grounds in South America. The birds use campus as a resting and refueling stop.

The bobolink, Eastern towhee, and blue-winged warbler have been classified as “species of greatest conservation need” by the 2015 Massachusetts State Wildlife Action Plan.

Raccoon. Photo: iStock


Researchers analyzed maps to find the ideal places to mount camera “traps”—which take photos when animals cross their paths, day or night—and collected 5,631 pictures.

Total number of mammal species identified, including Eastern gray squirrels, rabbits, woodchuck, common muskrat, stoat, and fisher.

Fourteen photos were of “unknown mammal species”—could any of them been coyotes? They were observed on campus during summer surveys in 2016.

The report notes that raccoons, as well as skunks (which weren’t observed) “represent reservoirs of disease and parasites” that could affect humans and other species.

View the full interactive story map­—which includes all the data, interactive GIS maps, project results, and team members—at http://arcg.is/2avKPNW.

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