Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

William B. Sutton

Third Advisor

Frank S. Gilliam

Fourth Advisor

Dan Evans


The Cheat Mountain Salamander (Plethodon nettingi) is endemic to the high elevations of the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia and is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species. In 1978-79 and in 2011 the vertical distribution of P. nettingi was measured at four sites to determine their range of occupancy in relation to elevation. During both time periods, a transect was established at each site that ran from high to low elevation. Along each transect, quadrats were placed at regular, 12.2 m elevation intervals. Quadrats were searched twice for presence/absence (i.e., occupancy) and abundance of P. nettingi and competitor salamander species. To determine if salamander species distribution had changed over time, occupancy modeling was used to compare species occupancy between the two time periods. I found that Plethodon nettingi was positively associated with higher elevations, and competitor species were negatively associated with higher elevations. Plethodon nettingi occupancy probability declined the most at the middle to highest elevations. There was no relationship between the change in occupancy of P. nettingi and Desmognathus ochrophaeus, but at the highest elevations the changes in occupancy of P. nettingi and Plethodon cinereus was negatively correlated. I suggest competition between these species is most intense at higher elevations and P. nettingi is possibly being outcompeted by P. cinereus. Habitat properties were also measured at each site and comparisons between the two time periods revealed varying trends in temperature, relative humidity, and moisture, but additional research is needed to draw complete conclusions on site dynamics. Summaries of forest properties suggested slightly less diversity at sites in 2011 compared to 1978-79, but incomplete data prevented testing for significance.


Natural history - West Virginia.

Cheat Mountain Salamander.

Forest management.

Nature conservation.