July 23, 2020

Biology major Kody Streeter ’21 is spending her summer researching the red-backed salamander, a very small amphibian than evades predators by abandoning part or all of its tail.

A red-backed salamander A red-backed salamander“We hope to gain a better understanding of the salamander populations in this area and that this data will allow for experiments in the future,” Streeter said. “I also hope to gain a better understanding of how different factors impact species and their communities and ways we can mitigate those negative impacts.”

Streeter, of Havertown, Pennsylvania, is working as a research assistant on the project with Tanya Matlaga, assistant professor of biology at Susquehanna.

The two have been working under the auspices of the Freshwater Research Institute, setting up long-term sampling plots to study the red-backed salamander, sampling streams in Loyalsock State Forest, and working with two-lined salamanders in the lab.

The research assistantship has also given Streeter the opportunity to work on two publications. The first is with a collaboration network called SPARCnet, through which Matlaga and Streeter update the known information on the red-backed salamander. This involves sifting through all new and old literature on the creature, revising what has changed, and filling in the gaps with their newly collected data and information. The second publication focuses on how abiotic factors and disturbances affect the egg distribution of the Smilisca phaeota, also known as the masked tree frog, in Costa Rica.

Streeter is also working toward her senior capstone project in which she will examine the effects of herbicide on local salamander populations. Following graduation, Streeter hopes to attend graduate school for environmental sustainability.

“It’s so interesting how much goes on in nature that we never really take notice to,” Street said. “This position has been a great experience as it has allowed me to gain a greater understanding and knowledge that will prepare me for my future educational and career goals.”