Active Lab Projects

We are working with collaborators in Massachusetts and Maryland on a study to understand climate-change impacts on red backed salamanders. In each of 4 study areas, we have established replicate plots where we are monitoring salamander populations. We will use a combination of natural environmental variation and experimental manipulations to establish climate relationships for each study area and how they vary across the salamanders range. We hope to eventually link this with coarser monitoring of presence and abundance to develop a cross-scale understanding of range-dynamics for this species.

As part of a larger working group funded through the USGS Powell Center and the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, we are trying focused on to understand among species predictors of climate impacts on amphibian species. The effort will rely on hundreds of time-series of amphibian occurrence probabilities to identify important climatic drivers and understand how their affect varies among species and systems.

Community interactions have long been known to be important in structuring breeding amphibians, which often use small wetland habitats such as vernal pools in the northeast. Mesocosm studies have demonstrated the importance of competition, predation, and hydro-period for these species. Our goal is to translate our understanding from experimental systems into natural systems to better understand the processes structuring communities. We use a dynamic modeling approach for field data to estimate interactions and the importance that predators and annual variability in water availability have in structuring occurrence patterns.

Misidentification is a problem for many ecological data sets and dealing with this source of observational error is increasingly important as we rely more on publicly collected data sets and large species occurrence databases. We have been working to quantify rates of misidentification and to develop statistical methods that properly deal with these errors when making inferences.

Bio-demographic methods to understand patterns of aging in wild animals provide insights into the processes that affect rates of aging. Although evidence is limited, there is some suggestion that rates of senescence may be lower in taxa such as snakes, turtles, and amphibians. We are working to try to better understand rates of senescence in these species and using a comparative approach to better understand factors that affect aging in these groups.