Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lisa Hazard

Committee Member

Kirsten Monsen

Committee Member

Matthew Schuler


The salamander family Plethodontidae is known for being an indicator of environmental health and has been labeled as the “canary in the coal mine” of forest ecosystems (Urban et al. 2014). One of the most widely distributed and commonly studied plethodontid species is the red-backed salamander (RBS, Plethodon cinereus). Populations of P. cinereus will be influenced by different variables within the environment including temperature, humidity, and leaf litter. Fundamental data on populations of P. cinereus must be gathered before we can understand how these intercorrelated variables will influence P. cinereus distribution and demographics. In this study I aimed to gather foundational data on the reproductive ecology of female red-backed salamanders in Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, New Jersey. Reproductive data were collected on 366 clutches from April 2017 to October 2019. I analyzed yearly and seasonal data as well as measured the effects of body size on clutch size. Results showed a positive correlation between body size and clutch size of P. cinereus. When seasons were analyzed separately, there were significant differences in clutch size among years for both the fall and the spring. Additionally, I manipulated leaf litter quantity and measured its impact on the clutch size of P. cinereus. I found that clutch size was positively associated with the quantity of leaf litter and decreased as leaf litter was removed from the study sites. This investigation provides a foundational analysis on the clutch size of P. cinereus in Stokes State Forest, providing significant information necessary for monitoring this population.

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