St. Mike’s student helps ID new frog species in Ecuador

June 1, 2017

A Saint Michael’s College student has identified a new species of frog in the Ecuadorian eastern cloud forests during her study-abroad research this past spring semester.

Mindee Goodrum ’18 is an Environmental Science major from Saco, Maine, with minors in Spanish and biology. Following is an account of her discovery received recently by Peggy Imai, director of Study Abroad for Saint Michael’s, from Xavier Silva, who oversees Mindee’s spring semester study program in Comparative Ecology & Conservation through Vermont’s School for International Training.

“Noblella sp. nov. is the new frog species discovered by student Mindee Goodrum (Saint Michael’s College, Biology) in the Ecuadorian eastern cloud forests. This species has been first seen by Herpetologist Santiago Ron (Ph. D., U. of Texas, Austin) from PUCE University and Natural History Museum of Quito. In his first encounter Dr. Ron doubted if it was a new species, but with the detailed pictures taken in the field by student Mindee Goodrum, he and his colleagues from the Museum and herpetologists from University of Texas, just determined that it is indeed a new species. The new species will be named after an Organic/Sustainable Coffee producer company in Ecuador that contributes to the cloud forests conservation. Congratulations to student Mindee Goodrum, and thanks to Javier Robayo, SIT-ECE teacher for providing the key contacts for Mindee’s Independent Study Project (ISPP at Cerro Candelaria Reserve of EcoMinga Foundation.”

Another student in Goodrum’s study-abroad group from Pomona College in California also discovered a new ant species.

Goodrum, a student in the Saint Michael’s Honors Program, is active on campus with Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) through Campus Ministry and with the Science Club. She also is a general chemistry tutor, a biology study-skills tutor, and works at the campus book store.

Recently she explained her path to her milestone scientific discovery:

“When looking for a study abroad program, I knew that I wanted a country in Latin America in order to practice my Spanish skills, as well as something that would continue to let me explore my interests regarding the environment and science, so SIT’s program in Ecuador seemed like the perfect fit,” she said. “It had courses in Spanish focused on Ecology and conservation, gave me the opportunity to stay with a host family, and had a number of amazing excursions around the country including the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.”

The program also gave her the opportunity to do her own research through an Independent Study Project (ISP) which is how she ended up finding this never-before-known species in the cloud forest of Cerro Candelaria Reserve.

“My project was mainly to assess the population of frogs in the reserve by conducting nocturnal visual-encounter surveys along transects in various sites in the reserve and to compare my results with those of previous studies,” she said. “I’m obviously incredibly excited about this discovery — although I should mention that two individuals had previously been found by two other scientists so I was not the first to encounter it, but the two additional individuals that I found provided enough data to determine that it is indeed a new species and to begin the process of describing it.”

Goodrum said she hopes to continue working with her project adviser (Juan Pablo Reyes Puig) who will be leading the effort to describe the species, and she hopes to be listed as an author when the paper is published. Puig also is working with others at the Ecominga Foundation (who own the reserve where she did her study) to publish a paper using his own data as well as Goodrum’s and previous SIT student’s data, to publish a comprehensive paper regarding the population of frogs in the reserve.

Since her recent return from Ecuador in late May, Goodrum says, she has been working to maintain the connections she built during her studies. “Unfortunately the current plan doesn’t involve naming the frog after me,” she said when asked. “As of right now the plan is to name it after a sustainable coffee company in Ecuador that has made large donations to Ecominga which has allowed them to expand their cloud forest reserves.”

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