Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Joseph Bidwell

Committee Members

Rebecca Pyles, Istvan Karsai, Daniel Connors, Andrew Joyner, Thomas Ecay


The southern Appalachian Mountains have among the highest salamander diversity in the world, largely due to local speciation in the family Plethodontidae. Plethodontid salamanders (i.e., lungless salamanders) are particularly sensitive to habitat climate conditions due to their reliance on cutaneous respiration, and their immediate environmental conditions (microhabitat) likely influence their dispersion and activity more than the large-scale atmospheric conditions. The Northern Gray-cheeked salamander (Plethodon montanus) is restricted to high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. Our goal was to investigate the relationship between P. montanus and its microhabitat by examining behavioral preference for climatic conditions, characterizing the microclimate with small-scale models, and testing for differences in stress hormones at different elevations. We found that behavioral preference is most restricted by relative humidity, microclimate models predicted far less prevalence at lower elevations than typical coarse-scale models, and stress hormones were elevated at a low elevation plot compared to a high elevation plot.

Document Type

Dissertation - embargo


Copyright by the authors.

Available for download on Monday, January 15, 2024