College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Environmental Science & Policy

Alum Lindsay Rohrbaugh (Wildlife, 2004) is helping DC develop its first Wildlife Action Plan

Photo Credit: 
Jonathan Wilson

Lindsay Rohrbaugh (Wildlife Ecology, 2004) was recently featured on "Morning Edition," a daily radio program produced by WAMU.  Together with colleagues at the District Department of the Environment, Lindsay is helping DC develop its first Wildlife Action Plan.  She also sponsors 1-2 ENSP undergraduate wildlife interns each summer.

The WAMU article reads:

Wherever D.C. Is Wild, Biologists Will Have A Plan For Action

Biologist Lindsay Rohrbaugh has been surveying various spots in D.C. for reptiles and small mammals for nearly six years.

Her work for the District Department of the Environment is scientific, but that doesn't mean it's always complicated. She utilizes coverboards -- nothing more than a square of corrugated metal or plywood, and regularly checks for critters that have crawled up underneath for warmth.

Sometimes she doesn't find anything, but in a meadow near Anacostia Park, we're in luck.

"Oh — there's a snake. Two snakes — garters — and they're both getting ready to shed, it looks like ... they've got these blue eyecaps."

The snakes aren't too much longer than a foot each. But Rohrbaugh will mark down exact lengths, weights, and species.

All the data she and her colleagues have been gathering will help make up the city's first ever Wildlife Action Plan.

Most states have a plan for protecting wildlife, especially species that are becoming increasingly rare. The District of Columbia lacks any such policy — it has a few basic animal protection laws — but the action plan, in theory, will fill that void.

"So we're going to take this shift from inventory and monitoring the species, and seeing what these trends are doing — we're going to continue that, but start looking to do more management and research. So, yeah, where are these conservation opportunities? Can we create a meadow — can we create a vernal pool?"

Under another coverboard Rohrbaugh nabs another small reptile that nearly wriggles into the underbrush.

"These guys are so fast," she says. "Did I get you? Oh my God, I can't believe I got you."

It's a female five-lined skink, the only lizard that can be called a true resident of D.C.

Rohrbaugh says D.C. once could also lay claim to a slightly larger reptile: the eastern fence lizard, which prefers drier forested areas. But she says habitat loss means the fence lizard is likely long gone from the city limits.

She hopes a Wildlife Action Plan can help other threatened species avoid the same fate.

"A lot of states have state endangered species acts — and I think if the city had that we could treat the species of greatest conservation need like that — we could do a lot for conservation."

In the coming months, the mayors office and city council will get their chance to weigh in on the Wildlife Action Plan.

According to the Department of the Environment, public hearings regarding how the nation's capital should manage its wildlife will likely follow later in the summer.

-- The complete article with photos and an audio link can be found here.


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