Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



Landscape genetics describes relationships between landscape variables and genetic variation in plant and animal populations. This has contributed to a better understanding of how environmental changes can affect the genetic composition and survival of a population. Over recent decades, global amphibian populations have been declining. An understanding of habitat structure and connectivity is important to consider when developing effective conservation strategies. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of landscape characteristics on gene flow and population structure of the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) in Mammoth Cave National Park (MCNP). This was accomplished using ResistanceGA, an R package, to optimize the landscape and assign resistance values to five habitat types: wet deciduous forest, dry deciduous forest, coniferous forest, human influence, and water. The program used coordinate locations from 50 sample sites, pairwise genetic distances between those ponds, and GIS landscape data from the park. Preliminary results indicate that distance is the best predictor of pairwise genetic distances. Adding vegetation to the model did not significantly improve the model. Within the vegetation model, human influence is least resistant to movement, followed by water, wet deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and dry deciduous forest.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Jarrett Johnson, Dr. Melanie Autin, Dr. Tom Richmond


Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Genetics