New Research Published Reveals Connections Among Deforestation, Run-off, Increased Conductivity, & Hellbender Decline

Amber Pitt, Jamie Shinskie, Joe Tavano, Sean Hartzell, Tina Delahunty, and Stephen Spear co-authored an original research article entitled Decline of a giant salamander assessed with historical records, environmental DNA, and multi-scale habitat data which was published on-line in the early view of the journal Freshwater Biology. This study reveals a substantial population decline of eastern hellbenders in the Susquehanna River drainage of Pennsylvania. Models suggest that increased conductivity of stream water following deforestation of the watershed is the strongest predictor of hellbender population extirpation. Additionally, this study demonstrates how historical records, environmental DNA surveys, and freely available remote sensing data can be used to rapidly assess the status of rare and difficult to study aquatic species.