Reptile and Amphibian Ecology

Two-dimensional mesh structure for spatio-temporal INLA model of Southern Dusky Salamanders

Reptile and Amphibian Ecology

What’s causing the decline of southern dusky salamanders (Desmognathus auriculatus) in the Southeastern United States?

Ever since the early 1980’s, the southern dusky salamander has been on a precipitous decline throughout the entirety of their distribution in the southeastern Coastal Plains. While the cause is unknown, hypotheses include: hydrologic disruption of natal habitat (a result of destructive rooting behaviors of feral swine, which were introduced and spread throughout the region where salamanders began to decline); habitat destruction due to widespread and pervasive land use and land cover change; widespread extinctions due to thermal intolerance under climate change; and the presence of a cryptic disease or pathogen. Methods: Using a database of presence only and standardized survey data ranging from the mid 1800’s until present, I will model the spatiotemporal dynamics of southern dusky salamander’s distribution in the southeastern US. To model this phenomenon, I will use a quantitative method commonly employed to predict the spread of disease (e.g. Malaria) and for modeling spatial patterns in geologic processes, a marked log-gaussian cox point process model. With this approach, I intend to model the influence of various factors–feral swine, habitat destruction, climate change, transmission of disease–on the prevalence of southern dusky salamanders during the last 100 years.

J Alex Baecher
J Alex Baecher
PhD student, Research Assistant

My research interests include landscape ecology and applied conservation of reptiles and amphibians

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