Population and Conservation Genetics

Landscape Genetics of SRS Amphibians

SREL Collaborators: David Scott, Stacey Lance

The Savannah River Site has more than 400 Carolina bay isolated wetlands which are home to more than 40 species of amphibians. Our lab has begun collecting tissue samples from numerous species from across the site for landscape genetics studies. One of our major areas of interest is dispersal patterns and connectivity among the wetlands. Species of focus so far include gopher frogs, southern toads, southern leopard frogs, tiger salamanders, marbled salamanders, and mole salamanders. We are also interested in how the landscape of various hydroperiod wetlands is going to change with the changing climate. Many pond breeding amphibians can only successfully reproduce in wetlands with particular hydroperiods. With a changing climate we may see a shift in hydroperiods one way or the other. We are investigating avenues for adaptive management of amphibians by constructing wetlands of particular hydroperiods. To make that work it is critical to understand the dispersal capabilities and gene flow barriers for different species to ensure plans include a landscape of wetlands that will preserve the long term health of populations dependent upon isolated wetlands.In addition to site-wide and regional studies we are conducting some focused studies on bays with long term demographic data (see long term population biology of amphibians).

Conservation Genetics of Gopher Frogs

SREL Collaborators: Stacey Lance, David Scott

Outside Collaborators: Stephen Richter (Eastern Kentucky University), John Jensen (Georgia DNR)

Gopher frogs (Lithobates capito) are an uncommon species historically distributed throughout the southeastern coastal plain of the United States. Historically, populations of gopher frogs were composed of multiple, small subpopulations connected across the landscape. As habitat has become fragmented and otherwise altered, local extinctions have occurred, and recolonization is prevented by lack of connectivity and uninhabitable landscapes.Consequently, in most of the current range, gopher frogs exist in a small number of isolated populations with low population sizes, little to no gene flow among populations, and no potential for natural recolonization following local extinctions. The exception is in portions of Florida and a few large protected areas outside of Florida (e.g., Fort Benning, Georgia; Savannah River Site, SC) where populations might continue to exist in networks, which increases probability of persistence and maintenance of genetic variation. We are currently assessing the genetic variation of gopher frogs in Georgia and South Carolina and working on adding samples from Florida. Ouremphasis is on quantifying the amount of genetic variation in each wetland surveyed and the degree of differentiation among wetlands.

The content and opinions expressed on this web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia. Jason O'Bryhim & Stacey Lance 2013