Department of Biology
Amphibian Research - Dr. Robert Brodman, Ph.D.
Dr. Brodman's focus is ecology,
evolution and zoology. His research focuses on the ecology and
conservation of amphibians in the
-the relationship of wetland water & habitat quality to amphibian abundance
-determining how behavioral ecology such as predator avoidance and shifts in use of habitat allow species to coexist
-documenting the affect of predation by amphibians as a means of mosquito control
-studying the recovery of amphibian & reptile populations in habitats with wetland and prairie restoration.
Since 1995, many of his undergraduate students became coauthors of scientific papers that were published in state agencies and national scientific journals and abstracts presented at science conferences.
For more on Dr. Brodman’s Amphibian Research, click here.
Students interested in participating in this ongoing
1. Contact Dr. Brodman
2. Take a course on using field surveys and monitoring amphibian populations as preparation.
3. Do the research:
- Go to wetland field sites in five adjacent counties to collect data.
- Learn how to correlate data to get useful information
- Learn statistical analysis and apply it to data to determine significance and trends
4. Write scientific articles and make presentations to professional groups.
In addition to our long-term study on the abundance and distribution of local amphibians we have several other projects going on.
Kankakee Sands Restoration Research
We began a study in 2001 to monitor the recovery of amphibian and reptile populations in a large-scale habitat restoration being conducted on a 7600 acre Nature Conservancy property about 25 miles west of campus. This project was funded by a grant from The Nature Conservancy and supported summer internships for Marissa Marlin ( '00) and Mike Parrish (03').
In addition to frog call surveys and aquatic surveys for amphibians we set up 18 drift fence arrays at 6 sites to capture live snakes, lizards, and frogs.
Animals that are blocked by the fence move left or right until like this hognose snake, they meet and enter a funnel trap.
We identify the species of each animal, measure their lengths and release them. So far we have already seen an increase in the number of reptile species and amphibian abundance has increase 10-fold since preliminary studies in 1998.
Ecology of Pond-Breeding Salamander Larvae
One of the principle questions of that we examine is how different species of salamanders that breed in shallow wetlands are able to coexist. Competition among the aquatic larvae is intense and larger species are cannibalistic predators. We have studied the inteactions of several species by using laundry tubs as artificial ponds and laboratory experiments on larval behavior. Heidi Kraus' ('03) summer internships were funded by grants from the Indiana Academy of Science to work on these studies. She found that smallmouth and blue-spotted salamander larvae suffer mortality and reduced growth due to competition from the larvae of unisexual populations of pond-breeding salamanders.
In the fall of 2002 we began two wetland & prairie restoration projects on campus. Included in this project is the creation of a number of small ponds for research on the ecology of pond-breeding salamander larvae. By moving the egg masses of tiger salamander, smallmouth salamanders and blue-spotted salamanders among small replicate ponds, we can control which species are in each pond and the relative abundance of larvae. We will conduct long-term experiments on competition among the salamanders and the effect of these predatory salamander larvae on the aquatic community, including their potential usefulness in mosquito control.
Adult blue-spotted salamander
Student Comments from two alumni who participated in these studies.
“I'm in grad school now. In grad school we have to give
presentations and write papers all of the time. After all my biology
presentations and the experience in the core program I'm not the slightest bit
worried. I also have a 5 credit Wetland Ecology and Management course this
term. Gosh, am I prepared for that course having already learned the
wetland requirements and plant abbreviations!!! We were introduced to the types
of wetlands but I already know this stuff having been out in the field so many
times! I'd say all the wetland exposure at SJC from you has really really helped put me ahead in this course!! Thank
-Jeanette Jaskula, (SJC’99). Jeanette is in a Master’s program at U. Wisconsin.
“Dr. Brodman's classes made me decide to pursue a career in wildlife research. I was thrilled the first time I could recognize a frog call. I can remember being somewhere with my friends when I heard a species I recognized. 'Listen,' I told them, 'a Spring Peeper!' They had no idea what I was talking about, but it was an exciting moment for me."
-Marissa Marlin (SJC’00). Marissa is employed at the Children’s Museum & Nature Center, Indianapolis.