“The Amazing Chase” at Chittenango Falls

Kira Hydock is an AAB Pre-Veterinary Fellow in Seneca Park Zoo‘s five-week, funded research and clinical fellowship for pre-vet college students this year. THe AAB Pre-Veterinary program exposes fellows to animal medicine and conservation through the completion of a research project, observation of clinical procedures and rotations through animal care facilities and laboratories. Read on for the first installment of Kira’s blog posts about her experience at the Zoo this summer:

Kira Hydock hot on the "chase."

Kira Hydock hot on the “chase.”

As the morning sun gleamed through the clouds and cool mist sprayed my face, I peered closely at the ground, careful not to let a leaf or stone go unexamined.  The group I was with consisting of students, a zoologist, a veterinarian, and a Seneca Park seasonal foreman followed close behind.

What were we doing you may ask?

Chasing the most endangered animal in New York:  the Chittenango ovate amber snail!

Chittenango ovate amber snail. Photo from senecaparkzoo.org

Chittenango ovate amber snail. Photo from senecaparkzoo.org

Really, a snail?!  Yes!

Despite their small size and their ability to discretely camouflage themselves on the rocks along the side of the Chittenango Falls, these little creatures hold a special place of concern in New York, particularly for snail enthusiasts, such as PhD-candidate Cody Gilbertson who has dedicated the past several years to surveying the falls for these snails and working to establish a captive population.

Corey Gilberston gluing a bee tag onto a Chittenango ovate amber snail.

Corey Gilberston gluing a bee tag onto a Chittenango ovate amber snail.

Cody’s passion and dedication demonstrates the importance of the Chittenango ovate amber snail and the efforts being pursued to preserve the species, which has been endangered due to habitat disruption and competition with an invasive snail species.

The entire experience, from learning about the snails to “scaling” (or in my case, clumsily crawling) the side of the falls to separating the collected snails by species and tagging the Chittenango ovate amber snails, exhibited the key components for field conservation work that can be applied to any species, be they small endangered snails on the side of a cliff or polar bears in the arctic.

Take home message:  don’t discount a species just because it is small — we never know the full role they play in our wild ecosystems until they are gone.

 

— Kira Hydock, 2015 AAB Pre-Veterinary Fellow

Photos and headline by Dr. Jeff Wyatt