The Salamander Hunt

Written by Rylee Whitney


Ally has just turned 12 years old and she loves animals, especially amphibians. Her parents have promised her that she would be able to go out exploring and research animals when she was older so she now gets to! On this adventure, she hopes to learn a lot and hopefully see her favorite animal, salamanders.

Keywords: amphibians, ambystoma, maculata, fascinated, salamander

Since Ally was a little girl, she has always loved and remained fascinated by various amphibians, specifically salamanders. Ally’s love for these animals came from her parents who have been studying amphibians since she was a young girl. Ally’s parents promised her that when she was old enough, they would take her out exploring with them to research all different kinds of amphibians and if she was lucky, she could maybe find some salamanders!

On her 12th birthday, Ally got to invite her friends to go to the zoo! While she was there, she and her friends got to see and learn about so many amazing animals. Ally had such a special day already that she thought to herself: “how could this day get any better?”.

When Ally got home from the zoo, her parents said they had a very special surprise for her. They told her that since she is now old enough, she was able to go out and do some exploring with them! “Ok, go get ready and all three of us will head out on your birthday adventure!” said Mom.

Ally was so excited she rushed into her room and began to pack up her exploring backpack like her parents had. She included her amphibian notebook, a pencil, and her camera to hopefully get a glimpse of a salamander.

By the time Ally and her parents decided to go searching for the animals, it was already getting dark outside.

“How will we see them?” Ally said to her parents. “Dad and I have packed up all our research equipment and a ton of flashlights so we can get a good look. Don’t worry!” said Mom.

Ally and her parents then loaded up the car and took a long drive out to their destination. When they arrived, they all got their equipment together and began their hunt. Ally and her parents began looking closely as they walked and right away they were able to find many amphibians. “You know, Ally, amphibians are very special because they actually breathe through their skin. They have to be extra careful with their atmosphere because if they aren’t they could breathe in a lot of toxins.” As they continued on their path, Ally was thinking about the type of salamander she just did some research on that she hoped to see which was an Ambystoma maculata salamander.

They went along on their adventure and Ally’s parents shared with her many facts about each animal they saw along the way. Mom pointed out so many different frogs that Ally really enjoyed learning about. She saw wood frogs, bullfrogs, green frogs, and leopard frogs. Mom shined a light on each one she mentioned and when she was done explaining what they were, they’d hop right along quickly.

As time went on, Ally was so happy that she was learning and seeing so much but she started feeling sad that she wasn’t seeing any salamanders. “We must be heading back home soon for dinner! It’s getting a little bit too dark to keep exploring” said Dad. Mom and Dad decided to go a little bit further and then it would be time to go back to the car.

They all began to turn back and once they reached the road where their car was parked, Dad yells “Wait! I see some!” Ally and Mom rush over and Ally is overjoyed at the sight she sees.

She shines her light on the road and she sees a bunch of salamanders crossing the road! Quickly, they all pick up the salamanders and put them back in a safe location so they aren’t harmed. Ally and her parents then notice their different colors and they try to decipher each kind.

As they are doing so, Ally realizes they forgot one salamander that is just about to step onto the road so she grabs it quickly. She inspects it with her flashlight and sees its vibrant yellow spots that resemble drops of paint and its very dark eyes. Dad joins Ally in looking at the salamander and they both agree that they have found an Ambystoma maculata!

Dad tells Ally that it is a female because of its size and larger sides. As they both feel the salamander, Ally takes note of its almost mushy consistency and wedge shaped head. Ally is overjoyed that she found a salamander and the exact one she was looking for. She also felt happy that she and her parents were able to save the salamanders from crossing the road and possibly getting hurt. After discussing some more, Ally’s parents decide to tell Ally she can bring the little salamander home with them.

Luckily, Mom and Dad had a jar big enough for the salamander to be safe in until they arrived at the pet store to get some things to build an environment that the salamander would be safe in back at home.

When the family arrived home and set up the new home for the salamander, Ally decided to name it “Amby” for short in relation to its kind. Her parents sang happy birthday to her and they even had some cake. Ally had such a fun day exploring with her parents and they promised her that from now on, she could come with them all the time to explore many different kinds of animals.


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Humanizing Science through STEAM Challenges Copyright © 2021 by E.J. Bahng and John M. Hauptman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.