Greater Good Charities Uncovers Rare and Exotic Salamander


When I found out I had the opportunity to join Greater Good Charities' Madrean Discovery Expeditions this fall, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’m a Digital Marketing Manager. I sit indoors on the computer all day, raising money for our programs. Joining over 50 field biologists from around the world who are experts in remote regions? I’ll be the first to admit that fieldwork certainly isn’t my specialty. Sleeping in a tent in remote Mexico without electricity, cell service or basic amenities isn’t an average day in the life of someone with my job description. But to understand how important these expeditions are, you have to experience it for yourself.

Last month,’s Madrean Discovery Expeditions embarked on a journey to the Sierra Madre Occidental to the Mesa Tres Ríos Sky Island in Sonora, Mexico. Meaning “The Top of the Three Rivers,” this is the wettest – and perhaps most biodiverse – Sky Island in Sonora. This area is particularly unique because its location is at the crossroads of plants and animals found in both deserts and tropical rainforests. Very little scientific research existed for this Sky Island, so a team of bi-national researchers, botanists, students, and animal experts were eager to find out what was in store.

Isthmura sierroccidentalis (Photo Credit: Jim Rorabaugh)

On the second day, sitting in rotting logs in a pine-oak forest, researchers discovered Isthmura sierroccidentalis, or more commonly known as the Sierra Madre Lungless Salamander. This rare and exotic creature is only documented on four occasions. What makes this sighting significant is it’s the furthest north documentation of this species – over 100 miles further north than researchers previously believed. Since this is a tropical species, it’s sighting on top of a mountain that receives heavy snowfall is remarkable.

Isthmura sierroccidentalis (Photo Credit: Jim Rorabaugh)

Experts will soon write research papers about this discovery – among many other findings on this trip. I was blown away by the dedication these researchers had to brave all elements in search of discovery. We got hit by a hail storm climbing the mountain. One truck didn’t make it down. This didn’t deter anyone from their work. I’m grateful to have been a part of this expedition and return to my computer with a wealth of knowledge and a better understanding of how vital these expeditions truly are.

Isthmura sierroccidentalis (Photo Credit: Charles Hedgcock)

These crucial discoveries wouldn’t be possible without the support of gracious donors to our Madrean Discovery Expeditions program. More trips to these largely unexplored Sky Islands of Sonora are certain to bring additional important findings!

You can help us discover even more species lost or unknown to science!