Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Our research in this area strives to advance our understanding of the relative roles of behavior and eco-physiology on shaping individual and population-level responses to multiple stressors, and the carryover effects of impacts of multiple stressors throughout the complex amphibian lifecycle (in a climate-change context).


Multiple stressors and carryover effects in amphibian populations.
PhD student Cassie Thompson is investigating the carryover effects of climate change-induced hydroperiod and temperature variation on wood frogs using cattletank mesocosms. She is following the growth, fitness and survival of metamorphs in the terrestrial environment using common-garden terrestrial mesocosm experiments and endurance trials. The goal is to integrate these vital rates into spatial models of future distribution and population viability using land use, climate, and hydrology projections for the next century.
PhD student Courtney Silver-Peavey is following up on Cassie’s work with a focus on neonicotinoid pesticides and interactions of pesticides with other stressors on demographic and behavioral carryover effects.

Funding: NSF- Graduate Research Fellowship Program, Ohio University 1804 Fund (for setting up the aquatic mesocosm facility)  

Project outputs:

  • Thompson, C.M. and V.D. Popescu (2021) Hydro-period induced carryover responses for survival, growth, and endurance of a pond-breeding amphibian. Oecologia 195: 1071–1081 link
  • Sweeney, M.R., C. Thompson, and V.D. Popescu (2021) Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoid pesticide Imidacloprid induces behavioral changes in larval wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 40: 1840-1849 link
  • Thompson, C., M.R. Sweeney, and V.D. Popescu (acceptedCarryover effects of sublethal exposure to pesticide Imidacloprid and shortened hydroperiod on juvenile wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) fitness and behavior. Journal of Zoology

Developing monitoring tools for Eastern Hellbender conservation in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The goal of this work is to evaluate the effectiveness of current conservation strategies in Ohio (head-starting), and to develop new monitoring methods to evaluate population dynamics and nesting behavior. PhD student Matt Kaunert has combined forces with Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio State University Research Extension, the Wild (Columbus Zoo), Toledo Zoo and Penta Career Center to monitor captive-bred and released juvenile Hellbenders using amplified PIT tag readers. Our lab is also helping with deployment of concrete nest boxes to augment Hellbender nesting habitat and study paternal care behaviors, and working with engineers to develop a PIT tag system to monitor nest box activity remotely. Ultimately, Matt aims to use demographic and behavior data to develop prioritization models for Hellbender persistence and recovery in Ohio.
MSc student Ryan Brown has been focusing on limiting factors to hellbender reproduction using egg and larval experiments. He is investigating the effects of different conductivity levels on egg development, survival to hatching, larval survival and morphology/body condition.

Funding: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio University Research Committee (OURC), Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District

Learn more about our hellbender research here:

Matt Kaunert research overview: VIDEO


Impacts of roadways on Eastern Box Turtles. Graduate student Marcel Weigand (MSc 2018) investigated the spatial ecology of Eastern Box Turtles at 2 sites:  along a new 4-lane highway and a roadless control site in SE Ohio. She paired turtle telemetry and habitat selection with an assessment of chronic stress via hormone assays (in collaboration with Dr. Chris Tonra at Ohio State University).

Funding: Ohio University Biological Sciences, Ohio Biological Survey, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Project outputs:

1 thought on “Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

  1. Pingback: Vernal Pools, Part II - Young Naturalists Club

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