Tusculum team publishes salamander research in regional publication


Photos: Tusculum University

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A pair of researchers from Tusculum University have successfully published a survey of local salamanders after a multi-year study.

A university press release explained that Tusculum alum Levi Morgan worked alongside Dr. Conor Keitzer, assistant professor of natural sciences, to write “Survey of Woodland Salamanders in Southern Greene County, Tennessee.”

Dr. Keitzer said that Morgan served as lead author in order to compile his and other students’ research in the field.

“Salamanders in Northeast Tennessee face a number of potential threats, including climate and land use change,” Morgan and Dr. Keitzer said in the abstract. “However, the current status and distribution of species in much of this area, which is important fundamental information for effective species management, are not well documented in the literature or public data sources.”

The release states that the study took place from May 2017 to October 2019 across 70 different sites. 11 separate species of salamander were observed in the area, with 10 other amphibians and reptiles.

“From a standpoint of conservation planning, we found that higher elevation locations (greater than 700 meters) were more diverse, highlighting the need for protection of high elevation forested ecosystems, which harbor much of the salamander diversity found in the southern Appalachian Mountains,” Morgan and Dr. Keitzer said.

After compiling the data over the 2020 Spring semester, the team published the article in the Tennessee Journal of Herpetology

“We are proud to provide our students with an active and experiential education that equips them to be career-ready professionals,” Dr. Keitzer said in the release. “Participating in this research initiative provided Levi with skills that will serve him well in his graduate studies and in his career. He also enabled readers to clearly understand the quality of Tusculum’s environmental science program.”

The full publication can be found here.

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