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Student Spotlight

Daniel Hocking

Alumnus Profile: Daniel J. Hocking

Degree: Natural Resources and Environmental Studies



Dissertation Title: The Role of Red-backed Salamanders in Ecosystems

Advisor: Dr. Kim Babbitt

Description of Research

My broad research interests are in the ecology and conservation of amphibians and reptiles.  My current research focus is on the role of terrestrial, woodland salamanders in ecosystem functions.  Terrestrial salamanders of the genus Plethodon can be incredibly abundant in forest ecosystems.  In many eastern US forests they are the most abundant vertebrate and can makeup twice the biomass of all the breeding forest birds.  As abundant predators of forest floor invertebrates salamanders have the potential to affect ecosystem processes through alteration of the detrital food web and through direct nutrient cycling.  I am specifically testing how the removal of salamanders from forest plots affects nitrogen mineralization rates, leaf litter decomposition rates, and oak seedling growth and survival.  Additionally, I am examining how salamanders affect other top detrial predators including spiders, centipedes, and carabid beetles.  These intraguild predators are likely competing for resources and their roles in the food web and ecosystem may be altered in the absence of salamanders.

Previous Awards and Activities
Selected Presentations and Publications


Semlitsch, R.D., S.M Blomquist, A.J.K. Calhoun, J.W. Gibbons, J.P. Gibbs, G.J. Graeter, E.B. Harper, D.J. Hocking, M.L. Hunter, D.A. Patrick, T.A.G. Rittenhouse, B.B. Rothermel, and B.D. Todd. 2009. Effects of timber management on amphibian populations: understanding mechanisms from forest experiments. Bioscience. (Cover Photograph)





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