Raymond D. Semlitsch, PhD
|University of Missouri
Division of Biological Sciences
212 Tucker Hall
Columbia, MO 65211-7400
div. of biological sciences web page
cell phone: (573) 864-2939
fax: (573) 882-0123
[current CV in pdf format]
|Research Interests||back to top|
My research focuses on understanding the persistence of amphibian populations in altered landscapes. It is specifically directed at understanding problems and questions related to the conservation of amphibians, and the protection of their aquatic and terrestrial habitats. We ask questions about: 1) the spatial and temporal dynamics of local populations, 2) connectivity in metapopulations, 3) habitat selection and use, and 4) the basic principles used to manage and conserve amphibians.
Although my research addresses applied questions, our studies are often directed at understanding very basic ecological and behavioral mechanisms. Much of our research is directed at understanding how individuals and populations behave and persist in altered landscapes. We also address the fitness consequences of behaviors or traits. We have strived to understand the differences among species, especially those with varying life histories. And further, we have begun to address ontogenetic effects and sex differences in how they are affected by altered habitats.
Some of my past studies have examined how chemical contamination in agricultural landscapes might affect life history traits and how traits differ among species, populations, and individuals. Our studies have documented the presence of additive genetic variance for chemical tolerance and trade-offs between tolerance and important life history traits when grown in the absence of chemical contamination. More recently, my students and I have shown how chemical contaminants mediate the outcome of species interactions (i.e., competition and predation) and maintenance of community structure, especially due to different abilities to cope with chemical stress. These studies have led to the findings that direct chemical effects vary widely among species, there is ample genetic variation to expect local adaptation to chemicals and that chemical tolerance has fitness tradeoffs. Also, that the indirect chemical effects on food resources and in the food-chain are a primary source of community-level effects. Our newest research on chemical effects is looking at sub-lethal effects of endocrine disruptors and the 'in-stream' consequences of chemical exposure on riparian amphibian communities.
We are also examining local population dynamics of amphibians in relation to altered habitats and to understand the connectivity of local populations across fragmented or disturbed landscapes. We are studying mechanisms such as migratory behavior of adult and dispersal by juvenile amphibians in relationship to natural and man-made barriers (e.g., pastures, roads [pdf], clear-cuts) in the laboratory and in large-scale forest manipulations. We are beginning to understand how such habitats create resistance to dispersal and could affect the probability of recolonization in metapopulations. We have used both direct behavioral techniques such as PIT tags, radiotelemetry, thread trailing, and fluorescent powder at small spatial and temporal scales, and indirect techniques such as mark-recapture and SSR microsatellite genetic markers at large spatial and temporal scales to understand how juvenile and adult amphibians move across the landscape. Our newest research examines the effects of timber harvesting [see LEAP project] on habitat selection, dispersal and migration behavior, survival, and the probability of recolonization for species with different life histories. Our studies have already shown that individuals recognize and can behaviorally avoid disturbed habitats, species differ widely in their behavior and strength of habitat selection, and that growth and survival is severely reduced in clear-cut habitats but partially ameliorated by the presence of course-woody-debris and annual variation in rainfall.
My proximate goal is to understand the ecological processes of local and metapopulation persistence and the maintenance of biodiversity in human-modified landscapes. The ultimate goal is to establish biologically-based principles for amphibian management and conservation, and wetland preservation.
|Publications||back to top|
Some Recent Publications
Earl, J., and R.D. Semlitsch. Carryover effects in amphibians: Are characteristics of the larval aquatic habitat needed to predict juvenile terrestrial survival? Ecological Applications (in press)
Peterman, W.E., S.M. Feist, R.D. Semlitsch, and L.S. Eggert. 2013. Conservation and management of peripheral populations: spatial and temporal influences on the genetic structure of wood frog (Rana sylvatica) populations. Biological Conservation 158:351-358.
Shulse, C.D., R.D. Semlitsch, K.M. Trauth, and J.E. Gardner. 2012.Testing wetland features to increase amphibian reproductive success and species richness for mitigation and restoration. Ecological Applications 22:1675-1688.
Earl, J., and R.D. Semlitsch. 2012. Reciprocal subsidies in ponds: Does leaf input increase frog biomass export? Oecologia 170:1077-1087.
Shulse, C., R.D. Semlitsch, K.M. Trauth, and A.D. Williams. 2010. Influence of design and landscape placement parameters on amphibian abundance in constructed wetlands. Wetlands 30:915-928.
Semlitsch, R.D., B.D. Todd, S.M. Blomquist, A.J.K. Calhoun, J.W. Gibbons, J.P. Gibbs, G.J. Graeter, E.B. Harper, J. Hocking, M.L. Hunter, Jr., D.A. Patrick, T.A.G. Rittenhouse, B.B. Rothermel. 2009. Effects of timber harvest on amphibian populations: understanding mechanisms from forest experiments. Bioscience 59:853-862.
Semlitsch, R.D., M.D. Boone, and J.R. Bodie. 2007. Bolstering amphibian communities on golf courses. GCM April 2008 pp. 111-118. (pdf)
Semlitsch, R.D. 2006. A paradigm shift in wetland boundaries. National Wetlands Newsletter 28:6-8. Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. (pdf)
Meyer, J.L., L.A. Kaplan, D. Newbold, D.L. Strayer, C.J. Woltemade, J.B. Zedler, R. Beilfuss, Q. Carpenter, R.D. Semlitsch, M.C. Watzin, P.H. Zedler. 2003. Where rivers are born: The scientific imperative for defending small steams and wetlands. sponsored by American Rivers and Sierra Club. (pdf)
Semlitsch, R.D., and J. Jensen. 2001. Core habitat, not buffer zone. National Wetlands Newsletter 23:5-6, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. (pdf)
Semlitsch, R.D. 2000. Size does matter: The value of small isolated wetlands. National Wetlands Newsletter 22:5-7. Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. (pdf)
|Teaching Activities||back to top|
I began my studies at the State University College at Buffalo in 1972 with the goal of teaching high school biology. I was strongly influenced by a high school biology teacher, Konrad Maier [see newspaper article], who always encouraged me to do my best and mentored me during my teenage years. However, my interests changed in the summer of 1975 when I spent three months at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in South Carolina doing undergraduate research on slider turtles with Whit Gibbons and Jim Spotila. They inspired me to change my goals and continue my education in graduate school in hopes that someday I would become a university professor. One of the things that appealed to me most was the mentor relationship between graduate students and their major professor. I loved that style of active, investigative learning. Plus, I thought it was really cool that I could be doing field research, chasing turtles and salamanders all day (and night!), and make a career of it! I received a M.S. degree from the University of Maryland in 1978 (with Richard Highton) and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Georgia in 1984 (with Whit Gibbons; see picture).
I have been in a university faculty teaching position since I left Duke University as a post-doc with Henry Wilbur and became an Assistant Professor at Memphis State University in 1986. My philosophy is still centered on teaching the dynamic processes of biology (specifically in ecology, behavior and evolution) that serve as the basis for the patterns we see in the natural world. Over the years my methods have changed, but now I focus on teaching principles through the use of real problems in the world in order to introduce ecological concepts, summarize current knowledge, and design future research to solve the problems. The challenge of teaching, for me, is reduced to devising new and creative ways to designing research, since there is no shortage of ecological or conservation problems. I continue to find students eager to offer new approaches and challenge me. This interactive process of teaching, both undergraduate and graduate students, is what I enjoy most.
Educational Psychology-SUNY College at Buffalo
University of Missouri – Columbia (the last 18 years):
University of Zurich:
Memphis State University: