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How Many Salamanders are in the forest? Testing capture-recapture

Author(s): Louise Mead1, Kristine Grayson2, Alexa Warwick3, David Miller4, Chris Sutherland5, Evan Grant6

1. BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action 2. University of Richmond 3. Michigan State University 4. Pennsylvania State University 5. University of Massachusetts-Amherst 6. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

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Collecting data on how populations respond to environmental change requires accurate estimates of population sizes. This activity explores one method for estimating population sizes across three different localities.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 01 Dec 2017 doi:10.25334/Q4637W - cite this


SPARCnet is a regional research effort founded in 2013 by the Northeast Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative of the U.S. Geological Survey and Pennsylvania State University. The overall objective of the network is to develop a large-scale, replicated field experiment to understand salamander climate adaptation and population dynamics across multiple scales using Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) as a model species. Despite being so widespread and reaching high abundances in some places, salamanders are difficult to study because of their cryptic nature, small size, patchy distribution, and behavioral sensitivity to environmental conditions. If we want to be able to investigate how populations respond to environmental change, we need to have some way of estimating the size of a population (N), and be able to evaluate the assumptions that are incorporated into these models. In this exercise, students estimate population size using the Lincoln-Petersen approach for three sites in the SPARC network: New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

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