Dr. David Marsh

   Professor of Biology

   Washington and Lee University


Current Research


Effects of Climate Change on Mountaintop Endemic Salamanders

Virginia is home to several endemic salamanders that are restricted to tiny ranges on one or several mountaintops.  My lab is studying several of these species in order to determine their biogeographic origins and their likely responses to climate change. With Big Levels Salamanders (just described in 2004), we are examining the structure of contact zones with the more common Red-Backed Salamander, and we are using mitochondrial DNA to understand the evolutionary history of the two species.  We are also studying the relative responses of Big Levels Salamanders and Red-Backed Salamanders to temperature fluctuations in order to predict the likely effects of climate warming on the interaction between the two salamanders.  With Peaks-of-Otter Salamanders, we are monitoring responses to logging and habitat disturbance and using mtDNA to examine population history. 


Population Dynamics of Terrestrial Salamanders                           

Although terrestrial salamanders are among the most common vertebrates in Eastern forests, their fossorial lifestyle means that little is known about their life history.  We are using a large mark-recapture dataset to examine the life history and population dynamics of these animals.  We are asking questions about seasonal dynamics, size-dependent mortality and reproduction, and the costs and benefits of dispersal.  We are then using this information to parameterize population models for terrestrial salamanders. 


Other Projects


Undergraduate Research and Education at NCEAS

During 2010-2011, I served as Undergraduate Education Advisor at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).  Since then, I have continued to collaborate with NCEAS on projects that blend undergraduate research and education.  Our current project "Roads, Toads, and Nodes" links undergraduate ecology and conservation biology classes in a collaborative study of the landscape ecology of amphibians in the Eastern and Central U.S. This project is funded by a TUES grant (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science) from the National Science Foundation. 


Recent Publications

(*indicates undergraduate student co-author, indicates paper from course research project)

Courses Taught


      Disease Ecology (BIOL 111)

      Statistics for Biology and Medicine (BIOL 301)

      Introduction to Behavioral Ecology (BIOL 105)

      Animal Behavior (BIOL 243)

      Field Herpetology (BIOL 242)


Complete CV