A study released in the November 2016 edition of the journal Diversity and Distributions was co-authored by Assistant Professor of Biology Bradley Cosentino, Alison McCarthy ’15 and Nick Steijn ’15, and draws from data compiled by Cosentino’s 2014 “Conservation Biology” class.
The study, “Effects of roads and land use on frog distributions across spatial scales and regions in the Eastern and Central United States,” examines how the scale over which road length, traffic, land development, forest cover, wetland area and landscape connectivity exert their maximum influence on frog and toad distributions. Students from 11 colleges and universities compiled data on frog distributions in different regions to contribute to the report.
Cosentino explains that students from each participating institution studied different locations in a certain state. Assigned to study Pennsylvania, HWS students compiled data on frog distributions that was collected by citizens through the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP). McCarthy and Steijn then traveled to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in Sante Fe, N.M., to integrate HWS’ data with the data collected by other classes and states.
The study further refines the understanding of the relationship between roads and amphibian populations, highlighting the need for research into the specific mechanisms by which roads affect amphibians. However, beyond the scientific significance of the study, Cosentino believes the practice of conducting publishable research is critical for advancing students’ interests and knowledge in their academic work.
“Conducting real research as an undergraduate can spark an interest in a particular area of science and deepen a student’s understanding of science as a process of gaining knowledge,” he says.
The study was a follow-up to a similar project conducted by students in Cosentino’s spring 2013 “Conservation Biology” course. The 2013 study used citizen science to reveal widespread negative effects of roads on amphibian distributions and was published in the journal Biological Conservation. HWS co-authors include Cosentino and Stephen Mugel ’13.