Our Approach

In 2013, the Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network started as a partnership between researchers at Penn State University and the USGS Northeast Amphibian and Research Monitoring Initiative (NEARMI) with the intention of creating a research network to understand salamander climate adaptation and population dynamics across multiple scales. The goal is to identify local and regional drivers of population dynamics to better predict the impacts of management and environmental change. We plan to achieve this goal by:

  1. Creating a versatile, statistically and methodologically efficient research protocol
  2. Establishing a network of study partners that perform and coordinate observational and experimental studies.

The core of the project revolves around capture mark-recapture and our replicated plot study design. This opens the door for collaborators to participate in research on morphology, abundance, age-class structure, life history, demography, and much more. Given the rich data set that will result from the effort put forth by the network, many additional research questions can be addressed, and this is one of the emergent opportunities that participation in SPARCnet offers. Our other central component includes development of citizen science opportunities, science curriculum, field biology courses, and educational materials for nature centers, refuge visitor centers, and the National Zoo.

Map of Network Participants

Map of SPARCnet participants overlaid on the geographic range of the eastern red-backed salamander (RBS). Created by Jill E. Fleming and Hannah Coovert
Map of SPARCnet participants overlaid on the geographic range of the eastern red-backed salamander (RBS). Created by Jill E. Fleming and Hannah Coovert. Last updated September, 2020.

Current Projects

Come back soon for an update on current happenings within the network. Until then, please see the list of recent publications, grants, and presentations below!

SPARCnet Publications

  • Fleming, J., Grant, E.H.C., Sterrett, S.C., and Sutherland, C. In press. Experimental evaluation of spatial capture-recapture study design. Ecological Applications.
  • Fleming, J., Sutherland, C., Sterrett, S.C., & Grant, E.H.C. 2020. A latent process model approach to improve the utility of indicator species. Oikos 129:1753–1762.
  • Hernández-Pacheco, R., Sutherland, C., Thompson, L. M., & Grayson, K. L. 2019. Unexpected spatial population ecology of a widespread terrestrial salamander near its southern range edge. Royal Society Open Science 6:182192.
  • Sutherland, C., Muñoz, D. J., Miller, D. A., & Grant, E. H. C. 2016. Spatial capture–recapture: a promising method for analyzing data collected using artificial cover objects. Herpetologica 72:6–12.
  • Muñoz, D. J., Miller Hesed, K., Campbell Grant, E. H., & Miller, D. A. 2016. Evaluating within‐population variability in behavior and demography for the adaptive potential of a dispersal‐limited species to climate change. Ecology and Evolution 6:8740–8755.
  • Muñoz, D. J., Miller, D. A., Sutherland, C., & Grant, E. H. C. 2016. Using spatial capture–recapture to elucidate population processes and space-use in herpetological studies. Journal of Herpetology 50:570–581.
  • Sanchez, K., Grayson, K.L., Sutherland, C., Thompson, L.M. and Hernandez-Pacheco, R., 2020. Environmental drivers of surface activity in a population of the eastern red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology15:642–651.
  • Sterrett, S.C., E.H.C. Grant, A.B. Brand, W.R. Fields, and R.A. Katz. 2015. Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red-backed Salamander). Movement. Herpetological Review 46:71.

SPARCnet Grants:

  • Mead, L., K. Grayson, M.C. Fisher-Reid, D. Miller, C. Sutherland. 2019. Collaborative Research: Implementing Multi-institutional Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experiences to Study the Impact of Environmental Changes on Salamander Populations. National Science Foundation (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE).
    NSF Award Numbers:
    1914722, 1914727, 1914791, 1914798, 1914801
  • Sutherland, C. and S.C. Sterrett. 2016. Investigating the adaptive potential of a forest indicator species to climate change predictions in Northeastern forest ecosystems. Northeast Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Planning Grant.
  • Sterrett, S., C. Sutherland and E.H.C. Grant. 2016. Integrating Science and Society: Improving public awareness about the link between climate change and local conservation issues using terrestrial salamanders as a model system. International Herpetological Symposium Grant.

SPARCnet Presentations:

  • Fisher-Reid, M.C., J. Fleming, E.H.C. Grant, K. Grayson, T.H. Matlaga, M. MacKnight, L. Mead, D.A.W. Miller, B. Shaw, S.C. Sterrett, C. Sutherland, and A. Warwick. 2021. Introduction to SPARCnet and Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red-backed Salamander). Northeast Natural History Conference. Special session on :SPARCnet: The Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network.” Virtual Online. Recording on YouTube
  • Grayson, KL, C. Fisher-Reid, L. Mead, H. Coovert, R. Hernandez Pacheco, J. Sevin, A. Warwick, T. Matlaga, S.C. Sterrett, C. Sutherland, J. Fleming, D. Munoz, D. Miller, E. Grant. 2020. Research and Teaching Opportunities with a large scale salamander collaboration network (SPARCnet). The Wildlife Society. Virtual Online. Poster PDF on QUBES Hub
  • Mausteller, E., M. Gillette, R. Snyder and T.J.H. Matlaga. 2017 Climate change impacts on food sources of terrestrial salamanders in the northeastern United States. National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Memphis, TN.
  • Sterrett SC, T Dubreuil, M O’Donnell and EHC Grant. 2016. Development of a novel passive integrated transponder (PIT) vertical telemetry system for studying subterranean movements of woodland salamanders (Plethodon). Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, New Orleans, LA.
  • Gillette, M., E. Mausteller and T.J.H. Matlaga. 2016. Climate change impacts terrestrial soil invertebrates and salamanders. Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America, Kutztown University, PA.
  • Sterrett SC, EHC Grant, AB Brand, A Dietrich, D Munoz, DAW Miller. 2015. Gaining knowledge and improving societal value for terrestrial salamanders: A model for amphibian conservation. Ecological Society of America. Invited presentation: Special Session - “Frontiers in Amphibian Conservation.”, Baltimore, MD.
  • Gillette, M., E. Mausteller and T.J.H. Matlaga. 2015. Forest roads and streams as potential barriers in movement of red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium, Bucknell University, PA.
  • Brand AB, A Dietrich, EHC Grant, DW Miller, D Munoz, and SC Sterrett. 2014. Response of Plethodon cinereus to variation in soil freezing: the design and first year of SPARCnet. The Wildlife Society, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.