Salamander field season: a recent Beloit grad dives into research at Virginia Tech
For his research, Charlie Holguin ’20 will be determining how environmental conditions at early life stages influence the growth of the southern two-lined salamanders and the eastern red-backed salamanders in a long-term study. In August of 2020, a total of 120 southern two-lined salamanders were collected and exposed to a factorial design containing two food treatments (1 and 2 black worms per week) crossed with two temperature treatments (11°C & 16°C). With the help of volunteers, they’ve collected mass (g) and total length (mm) for each salamander.
Currently, Charlie is going through his second field season, in which he is collecting red-backed salamanders and managing the two-lined salamanders. Once collected, the red-backed salamanders will be exposed to the same treatments. After the study, he will compare and contrast the result for both species of salamanders.
In the future, he’ll be expanding his research by determining the age structure of populations of red-backed salamanders along elevational gradients in Southwest Virginia. They will be using two locations containing six sites along three different elevations (1,700 ft, 2,700 ft, 3,700 ft). When collected, the researchers will measure snout-vent length, total length, mass, gravidity, and egg count. To determine age, they will be using a technique known as Skeletochronology (counting growth rings similar to counting tree rings).