My research will be conducted at Laguna de Cube, which is located in the Esmeraldas Province of Ecuador. This ecologically significant area is listed by Ramsar as a wetland of international importance. Laguna de Cube is a wetland of interest because it has had minimal anthropogenic disturbance, international wetland status, and exists in a region undergoing rapid development making it a biodiversity hotspot. I plan to examine herpetofaunal assemblage relative to elevation and identify areas and taxa important to conservation of this internationally unique wetland. My overall goal is to quantify the differences between primary forest habitats and human impacted habitats. Since climate change potentially threatens biodiversity in mountainous regions, I also intend to quantify important abiotic gradients for Laguna herpetofauna. I will sample six areas (i.e. 3 forest and 3 plantation) each at three different elevations and statistically relate elevation to species distribution. Research such as mine is important due the rarity of this wetland and should support conservation efforts. My hope is that organizations will benefit from the management and conservation recommendations produced by my research.
Students at the tenth grade level may benefit from learning the potential impacts humans have on different species and their habitats, which directly relates to my area of research. The tropics are synonymous with habitat loss and degradation. Teaching students about the importance of limiting our impacts on the environment is not only a great science lesson, but will become useful knowledge as these impacts become a more visible effect on our lives. Since I work with reptiles and amphibians, teaching students about ectothermic organisms will allow me to discuss areas of science related to adaptation and evolution as well. Reptiles and amphibians are such unique and interesting organisms, and the number of different ways they have been able to survive the harshest of earth’s environments makes them extremely interesting.