The Great Lakes region is home to the diverse genus Ambystoma, including the Blue Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale) and Jefferson’s Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum). These two species are relevant to conservation efforts because of unique hybrid populations. This hybridization creates offspring populations that are morphologically similar to the parental species. The hybrid populations are primarily all female lineages and are known as the Ambystoma jeffersonianum complex. Conservation interest in this hybrid complex stems from the fact that hybrid populations are not taxonomically recognized as separate species and therefore are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. To assess the contribution of hybrid populations to ecosystems, hybrids must be distinguished from non-hybrid salamanders. The goal of this project is to use molecular techniques to identify hybrids from parentals and gather more information about their distributions in a small sub-population on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus. Geographic Information System techniques were used to initiate characterization of the habitat associated with this population. In this project, 50 tissue samples were analyzed via microsatellite PCR with two loci, and gel electrophoresis. Of the 50, 29 were A. laterale, 19 were hybrids, and two samples failed to amplify. The habitat suitability model explored the predicted locations for where populations may be found on the RIT campus. Two of the 25 sample clusters (8%) were outside of the predicted areas generated by the model. However, the state wetland data had 100 foot no-impact buffer, with the misses being inside of this area. The habitat model also successfully confirmed suitable habitat for 48 of the 50 salamanders sampled, while showing suitable habitat in areas on the RIT campus and Monroe County that have not been sampled. Therefore, this predictive model could be used to identify additional sampling areas within the county to continue this research.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ambystoma jeffersonianum--Conservation; Blue-spotted salamander--Conservation; Ambystoma--Hybridization; Ambystoma--Habitat--New York (State)--Rochester

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Larry Buckley

Advisor/Committee Member

Karl Korfmacher

Advisor/Committee Member

Susan Smith Pagano


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes