Research and Monitoring

Science Center Objects

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Effects of Network Structure on Stream Salamanders

The role of stream network structure in driving salamander population dynamics needs more attention.  Although several studies have examined the effects of stream habitat and interspecific interactions on salamander populations, the role of the spatial structure of stream networks in mediating population processes for stream salamanders is poorly understood.  However, the role of stream network structure is vital because it will likely be altered by future changes in landscape pattern and climate regimes.  Conservation efforts for stream salamanders will need to consider factors that may alter the structure of stream networks because this may alter dispersal rates and affect population dynamics.

Managing Habitat for Amphibians

Monitoring programs worldwide focus on estimation of trends in populations, often with an implicit expectation that identification of a trend will result in smart decisions as to how to respond (via management).  Though many researchers investigating the patterns and causes of amphibian declines have focused on estimation and detection of population trends, we take a different approach.  We are linking amphibian monitoring data directly to potential management actions by following a structured approach to decision making.  These projects involve working closely with biologists from USGS and academic institutions, resource managers from FWS and the NPS, and other stakeholders, including The Nature Conservancy.  Notably, these collaborations will result in better-informed management, elucidate the links between local and regional stressors and amphibian population response, and provide more robust inference for amphibian population change throughout the northeastern United States.

Morphological variation of Plethodon shenandoah and Plethodon cinereus in high-elevation areas of Shenandoah National Park

In order for resource managers at Shenandoah National Park to implement long-term monitoring for the federally-endangered Shenandoah salamander, Plethodon shenandoah, absolute certain identification of the species in the field is critical.

Stream salamanders in Shenandoah National Park: Movement and survival of stream salamander populations

Research in population biology is concerned with factors affecting the change in a population over time, including births, deaths, immigration and emigration. Despite the potential importance of immigration and emigration, empirical data on movement patterns are lacking in many systems.

Elucidating mechanisms underlying amphibian declines in North America using hierarchical spatial models

The Powell Center facilitates the implementation of new and innovative processes to increase scientific understanding aimed at resolving significant and complex issues, as outlined in the USGS Science Strategy. A hallmark of the Powell Center is that it is “a scientist-driven institution where leveraging existing research efforts produces powerful new insights and moves scientific understanding, and its inclusion into management, forward at an accelerated pace”.

Amphibian monitoring in the National Capital Region

The National Capital Region Network has identified amphibians as a priority taxonomic group for its Inventory and Monitoring program. Amphibian monitoring was initiated in 2005, and is currently concentrated in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (CHOH) and Rock Creek Park (ROCR), with stream sampling also occurring in Prince William Forest Park (PRWI).

Monitoring Vernal Pool Amphibians in the Northeast

In 2004, the Northeast Amphibian Research Monitoring Initiative (NE ARMI) received funding from the National Park Service’s Park Oriented Biological Support, and combined these monies with ARMI funds to initiate a region-wide study on the distribution of vernal pools and estimate the proportion of pools that were occupied by pool-associated amphibians (specifically, wood frogs, Lithobates sylvaticus, and spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum).

Monitoring the Shenandoah salamander in Shenandoah National Park

The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is a federally endangered species found only within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  This terrestrial salamander is isolated to approximately 6 km² of dry talus slopes at high elevations in the park.  Results of previous research suggest that P. shenandoah is competitively excluded to suboptimal talus habitats by the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) and have implicated competition as the dominant driver of extinction risk for this species.  Recent occupancy analysis, however, suggests that climate change appears to be the dominant driver of extinction risk for P. shenandoah and that the risk may be exacerbated further when climate change interacts with competition.

Making Decisions for Headwater Stream Conservation at the Watershed Scale

There is growing evidence that headwater stream ecosystems are especially vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but their conservation is challenged by the need to address the threats at a landscape scale, often through coordination with multiple management agencies and landowners.

A New Collaborative Project to Understand Red-backed Salamander Population Dynamics and Climate Change Adaptation

In 2013, the Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Network started as a partnership between researchers at Penn State University and the USGS Northeast Amphibian and Research Monitoring Initiative with the intention of creating a research network to address climate adaptation and population dynamics across multiple scales. Our goals are to understand impacts of land use and climate change on salamander population dynamics and to develop a model to describe local and regional drivers of population dynamics by: 1)creating a versatile, statistically and methodologically efficient monitoring protocol, and 2)creating a network of linked observational and environmental manipulation studies.