Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Andrew George (

Second Advisor

Christine Brodsky (

Third Advisor

Catherine Hooey (


Amphibian populations are declining globally, with habitat loss and fragmentation being a leading cause for their decline. Anthropogenic changes to a landscape, such as urbanization, agriculture, and surface mining, leave few native habitats intact, which can influence amphibian populations and communities to varying degrees. Amphibians can provide insight into the health of ecosystems because they are sensitive to changes in their environment. Thus, they can be considered indicator species in anthropogenically altered wetlands. The goal of this study was to characterize amphibian communities that are using surface mined lands that have undergone vegetative succession. For Chapter I, we used call surveys to model occupancy of four anuran species, two of which are species in need of conservation (SINC; crawfish frog [Lithobates areolatus] and spring peeper [Pseudacris crucifer]). We found that anthropogenic landscape features, such as the percent of open water and cropland land cover, provided the necessary habitat to support the anuran community. In Chapter II, we evaluated the wetland characteristics that influenced the occupancy of five focal larval anuran species and the species richness and diversity of the amphibian community. We captured ten species of amphibians, including the first county record of eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), a SINC species. Although our findings varied for each species, the change in wetland area, presence of predatory fish, water conductivity level, and percent of emergent vegetative cover explained the variation in occupancy patterns for most species and for the amphibian community within a wetland. We also found that larval amphibian communities did not differ between management or land use history of the site. Lastly in Chapter III, we assessed the efficacy of survey methodology on the capture rates of larval amphibians. We found that baiting minnow traps with green glowsticks increased capture rates overall, but this effect was species-specific and varied by the time of year. The findings from all three studies provide important insights regarding amphibian use of formerly mined landscapes. The factors that determine species occupancy and community structure are related to both landscape composition and local habitat features, regardless of land-use history. Even sites that have been heavily disturbed by surface mining can potentially provide habitat for multiple amphibian species, including at-risk species. The conservation value of these recovering wetlands warrants their management and protection.


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