David Marsh Professor of Biology

David Marsh

Parmly 320


Ph.D.  University of California, Davis, 2000
B.A.  University of Virginia, 1993


Effects of Climate Change on Endemic Mountaintop 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 genetic methods to examine population history. 

Effects of roads and land use on frog and toad populations across the eastern and central U.S.
Numerous small-scale studies have investigated the various effects of roads and development on frog and toad populations. I am coordinating an NSF-sponsored project to examine these relationships more generally across a large swath of the eastern and central United States. Using data from the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program and public data on land use and wetland distributions, we are linking together undergraduate ecology and conservation biology courses to determine what kinds of land use are detrimental to amphibians, and where possible, why these land uses have the effects they do. This project is managed in collaboration with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

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.


Introduction to Behavioral Ecology (BIOL 105)
Disease Ecology (BIOL 111)
Field Herpetology (BIOL 242)
Animal Behavior (BIOL 243)
Statistics for Biology and Medicine (BIOL 301)

Selected Publications

*indicates W&L students

Hoopes, M.F., Marsh, D.M., Beard, K.H. et al. 2013. Invasive Plants in Wildlife Refuges: Coordinated Research with Undergraduate Ecology Courses. BioScience 63: 644-656.

Tilghman, J.M.*, Ramee, S.W.* and D. M. Marsh. 2012. Meta-analysis of the effects of canopy removal on terrestrial salamander populations in North America. Biological Conservation 152: 1-9.

Bayer, C.O*., Sackman, A.S.*, Bezold, K., Cabe, P.R., and Marsh, D.M. 2012. Conservation genetics of a mountaintop salamander with an extremely limited range. Conservation Genetics 13: 443-454.

Schieltz, J.L*., Haywood, L.M*, and Marsh, D.M. 2010. Effects of cover object distribution on the socioecology of a terrestrial salamander. Herpetologica 66: 276-282.

Marsh, D.M. 2009. Evaluating methods for sampling stream salamanders across multiple observers and habitat types. Applied Herpetology 6: 211-226.

Marsh, D.M., and Trenham, P.C. 2008. Current trends in monitoring programs for animal and plant populations. Conservation Biology 22: 647-655.

Marsh, D.M., Page, R.B., Hanlon, T.J., Corritone, R*., Little, E.E.*, Seifert, D.E.*, and Cabe, P.R. 2008. Effects of roads on patterns of genetic differentiation in red-backed salamanders, Plethodon cinereus. Conservation Genetics 9: 603-613.

Marsh, D.M, Page, R.B., Hanlon, T. J., Bareke, H.* Corritone, R.* Jetter, N.*, Beckman, N.G.*, Gardner, K.*, Seifert, D.E.*, and Cabe, P.R. 2007. Ecological and genetic evidence that low-order streams inhibit dispersal by red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 85: 319-327.

Marsh, D.M. and Hanlon, T.J. 2007. Seeing what we want to see: confirmation bias in animal behavior research. Ethology 113: 1089-1098.

Cabe, P.R., Page, R.B., Hanlon, T.J., Aldrich, M.E.*, Connors, L., and D. M. Marsh. 2007. Fine-scale genetic population structure and gene flow in a terrestrial salamander living in continuous habitat. Heredity 98: 53-60.

Marsh, D.M. 2007. Edge effects of gated and ungated forest roads on terrestrial salamanders. Journal of Wildlife Management 71: 389-394.

Marsh, D. M., Milam. G. S.*, Gorham, N. P.*, and N. G. Beckman*. 2005. Forest roads as partial barriers to terrestrial salamander movement. Conservation Biology 19: 2004-2008.

Adams, V. M.*, Marsh, D. M., and J. S. Knox. 2005. Importance of the seed bank for population viability and population monitoring in a threatened wetland herb. Biological Conservation 124: 425-436.

Marsh, D. M. and Hanlon, T. J. 2004. Observer gender and observation bias in animal behaviour research: experimental tests with red-backed salamanders. Animal Behaviour 68:1425-1433.

Marsh, D. M., Thakur, K. A.*, Bulka, K. C.*, and L. B. Clarke*. 2004. Dispersal and colonization through open fields by a terrestrial woodland salamander. Ecology 85: 3396-3405.

Marsh, D. M. and Beckman, N. G.* 2004. Effects of forest roads on the abundance and activity of terrestrial salamanders in the Southern Appalachians. Ecological Applications 14:1882-1891.

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.