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).

CURRENT PROJECTS

Climate change 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 frogsusing 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.

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

Project outputs:

  • Thompson, C. & Popescu, V.D. (in prep). Complex climate change-induced carryover responses for survival, growth, and endurance of pond-breeding amphibians. for Global Change Biology.


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.

Funding: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio University Research Committee (OURC)


PAST PROJECTS 

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:

  • Weigand, M., R. Wagner, C. Tonra, and V. Popescu (in review) Proximity to highways has limited influence on space use and physiology of Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina). Biodiversity and Conservation

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