José Alfredo Hernández Díaz
- Project name: Diagnosis of Taylor’s salamander situation: Searching for suitable conservation strategies
- Project site: Alchichica lake, Mexico
- EDGE species: Taylor’s salamander Ambystoma taylori
- Active: 2015 - ongoing
Alfredo is the Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at Africam Safari Zoo in Mexico, and has been coordinating conservation projects for the past 5 years. He is a passionate individual with a wealth of experience working with amphibians and reptiles in Mexico and Latin America. He has been coordinating both in-situ and ex-situ conservation projects in Mexico for the last two years.
Recognising the desperate need for conservation of amphibians in Mexico, Alfredo has been coordinating a programme focusing on the Large-crested toad. The EDGE Fellowship was attractive to Alfredo as he felt the training offered has complimented his previous experience and allowed him to design and lead a successful conservation project on Taylor’s salamander. In 2017 Alfredo became one of the first EDGE Affiliates.
The aim of this project is to assess the status of Taylor’s salamander in Laguna Alchichica, and implement conservation actions for the species. Specifically, Alfredo aims to:
- Quantify the population of A.taylori in Laguna Alchichica and assess the structure of that population (adults, juveniles and sex ratio);
- Measure the potential effects (chemical pollution) of agricultural activity on the lake’s water quality;
- Quantify the changes in salt concentration in the water as a consequence of water extraction from the lake and seasonal climate variations;
- Identify negative effects of water pollution on salamanders evaluating enzymatic biomarkers of pollution and looking for external deformities;
- Evaluate the presence of infectious diseases as a possible threat to the salamander population.
- Implement conservation strategies, including reforestation, litter clearance and restricting vehicle access.
- Alfredo created the first distribution map for salamanders living within Laguna Alchichica.
- He identified several traits in taylori previously unknown to science, including reduced lung size and the discovery that they do not use their lungs to breathe.
- He also found the nematode Hedruris siredonis in their digestive tracts and has published a paper on the negative effects caused by these parasites in A. taylori.
- He performed a total of 750 outreach surveys directed to schoolchildren, teachers and the general public to educate them about the importance of the lake, its biodiversity and in order to mitigate threats to the salamander.
- He identified key factors negatively impacting salamander populations and established interventions to address these, such as the installation of rubbish bins, involving 150 locals in rubbish clearance events and engaging farmers in improvements to farming practices to reduce water extraction.
- His team initiated reforestation of 2000 native trees in the surrounding area of the lake, with the participation of 400 local people.
- His team initiated the restriction of vehicle access to 3.4km of the lakes permieter.
- He received a £20,000 grant from the Volkswagen Foundation to scale up his project.