• My Interests

    I am broadly interested in understanding factors regulating species ranges, within-range variability in species responses, the role of plasticity in mediating ecological responses to abiotic conditions and community interactions, and community responses to habitat change.
    I am currently working on my PhD with Dr. David Miller in the Ecology program in the Department of Ecosystem Sciences and Management at the Pennsylvania State University.
    Check out my current and previous research links to read more!

  • Current Research

    Projects are listed chronologically and resulting manuscripts can be found in the Publications section.

    Wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus): Image courtesy of J. Feinberg

    Wood frog range dynamics

    How does the response of breeding of wood frogs to annual variation in weather variables vary across their range?
    • Can responses to annual variation in weather be predicted by site location within the broader climate niche occupied by the species?
    • Is there a single optimum value for climate or is there evidence for local variation in climate responses as evidenced by local optima?
    We have egg mass count data for wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) from across their broad range. We are investigating how count data and trends in abundance vary in respect to climatic conditions to better understand patterns and variation across the species range. Using dynamic state space models to incorporate annual and regional climate, we can test hypotheses concerning breeding conditions, water availability, and overwintering survival across the range.

    Shenandoah salamander range boundaries

    How does interspecific competition help shape species ranges?
    • How do interspecific interactions potentially alter species traits and behaviors and structure range limits?

    • Can divergence or similarities in traits and behaviors help explain patterns in species occurrence? 
    Shenandoah salamanders are a range-restricted, federally-listed species, occurring only on the tops of certain mountains in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. The range boundary of this species is currently not well-defined, and the factors setting these limits need to be better elucidated to assist in conservation efforts. Temperature and humidity likely play a large role in establishing the lower limits of the Shenandoah salamander's range, but competition with another native salamander, the red-back salamander, may also be important.
    By surveying for both species along the hypothesized range boundary, we hope to better model the current distribution of each species along these mountain tops using two species occupancy models. In addition, by measuring individual physical traits and behavioral use of habitat, we can better understand if and how competitive interactions between these species shape the Shenandoah salamander's current range.
    California whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis): Image courtesy of WERC

    California Rapid Assessment Protocol

    How do communities interact and assemble across their ranges?
    • Are there indicator species that can inform land managers as to the health or degradation of their managed lands?
    How does disturbance (e.g., fire, urbanization) alter community composition?
    • Can range position or life history traits predict colonization or extinction probabilities in response to disturbance?
    In collaboration with the Western Ecological Research Station, we are analyzing species community data in order to produce rapid inventory assessment protocols for habitat managers for use in the initial assessment of new properties. This will allow managers to best design survey methodologies to measure species diversity and richness at a site. We will also test the idea of indicator species as a means to assess ecosystem health or degradation indirectly.
    Lastly, we will explore the community-wide effects of broad-scale disturbance (urbanization and wildfire) on community assemblages and species turnover and if range position or life history traits can help explain species responses.

    Powell Center- Amphibian Decline Working Group

    What trends exist in amphibian occupancy across North America and what factors are responsible?
    • What can continental trends in amphibian occupancy tell us about climate factors affecting this group?
    I have been working through the John Wesley Powell Center as graduate fellow with the Amphibian Decline working group. We have collaborators from across the United States, Canada, and Europe involved in this broad-scale, collaborative project. We are interested in large scale patterns in amphibian occupancy and understanding declines at continental scales. This involves analysis of amphibian monitoring data from long time series and from broad spatial scales. Our focus is on understanding the role of water availability and other climate-related factors in explaining patterns of amphibian occupancy using Bayesian hierarchical modeling.
    Boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata) waiting to be marked: Photo credit S. Amburgey

    Population dynamics of a high elevation pond breeding amphibian

    What factors influence the demography and persistence of high elevation pond breeding amphibians?
    • What are basic demographic estimates in Boreal chorus frogs and how does climate impact this species across time?
    In collaboration with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, we hope to better understand the dynamics of high elevation amphibians. Using long time series of capture-mark-recapture data in high elevation populations of Boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata), we can increase our basic ecological and demographic knowledge of this species. In addition, this pond-breeding amphibian is a useful system in which to understand the importance of climate, hydroperiod, and the impacts of climate change on high elevation, montane amphibian species. We approach this through continued data collection of marked populations, analysis of current monitoring data, and data reclamation efforts from studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Additional Experience

    Spotted salamander demographics and vernal pond community sampling

    Using capture-mark-recapture methods, principle investigators hope to understand vernal pond usage by these amphibians over time.

    Amphibian community surveying and disease and environmental contaminant sampling

    As part of a continued monitoring program to track patterns in amphibian community assemblages, principle investigators also conduct disease sampling and collect animals for chemical contaminant testing.
    Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas): Photo by S. Amburgey

    Rocky Mountain National Park Boreal toad recovery

    As part of an interagency recovery team to bolster populations of the state endangered Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas), work conducted focused on disease sampling, surveying previously and currently occupied toad sites, and reintroduction efforts of tadpoles and hatchery raised adults.

    Boreal chorus frog landscape genetics and behavioral experiments

    To better understand potential speciation events across elevational gradients, the Funk and Hoke labs conducted a series of behavioral experiments and took genetic samples from Boreal chorus frogs across Larimer County, CO. See Publications for results of this exciting work!
  • Publications

    Published journal articles with links to downloadable copies of each. Most of these publications are also available via my ResearchGate site (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Staci_Amburgey).

    Quantifying climate sensitivity and climate-driven change in North American amphibian communities

    D.A.W. Miller, E.H.C. Grant, E. Muths, S.M. Amburgey, M.J. Adams, M.B. Joseph, J.H. Waddle, P.T.J. Johnson, M.E. Ryan, B.R. Schmidt, D.L. Calhoun, C.L. Davis, R.N. Fisher, D.M. Green, B.R. Hossack, T.A.G. Rittenhouse, S.C. Walls, L.L. Bailey, S.S. Cruickshank, G.M. Fellers, T.A. Gorman, C.A. Haas, W. Hughson, D.S. Pilliod, S.J. Price, A.M. Ray, W. Sadinski, D. Saenz, W.J. Barichivich, A. Brand, C.S. Brehme, R. Dagit, K.S. Delaney, B.M. Glorioso, L.B. Kats, P.M. Kleeman, C.A. Pearl, C.J. Rochester, S.P.D. Riley, M. Roth, B.H. Sigafus


    Nature Communications, 2018


    DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06157-6

    Range position and climate sensitivity: The structure of among-population demographic responses to climatic variation

    Staci M. Amburgey, David A. W. Miller, Evan H. Campbell Grant, Tracy A. G. Rittenhouse, Michael F. Benard, Jonathan L. Richardson, Mark C. Urban, Ward Hughson, Adrianne B. Brand, Christopher J. Davis, Carmen R. Hardin, Peter W. C. Paton, Christopher J. Raithel, Rick A. Relyea, A. Floyd Scott, David K. Skelly, Dennis E. Skidds, Charles K. Smith, and Earl E. Werner
    Global Change Biology, 2018
    Press on this paper:

    First Estimates of the Probability of Survival in a Small-bodied, High Elevation Frog or, how Historical Data Can Be Useful

    E. Muths, R.D. Scherer, S.M. Amburgey, T. Matthews, A.W. Spencer, P.S. Corn
    Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2016

    Quantitative evidence for the effects of multiple drivers on continental-scale amphibian declines

    E. H. C. Grant, D. A. W. Miller, B. R. Schmidt, M. J. Adams, S. M. Amburgey, T. Chambert, S. S. Cruickshank, R. N. Fisher, D. M. Green, B. R. Hossack, P. T. J. Johnson, M. B. Joseph, T. Rittenhouse, M. Ryan, J. H. Waddle, S. C. Walls, L. L. Bailey,
    G. M. Fellers, T. A. Gorman, A. M. Ray, D. S. Pilliod, S. J. Price,
    D. Saenz,
     W. Sadinski, and E. Muths


    Scientific Reports, 2016




    Press on this paper:


    Popular Science


    Science Daily

    Phenotypic plasticity in developmental rate is insufficient to offset high tadpole mortality in rapidly drying ponds

    S. M. Amburgey, M. Murphy, and W. C. Funk
    Ecosphere, 2016

    Elevational speciation in action? Restricted gene flow associated with adaptive divergence across an altitudinal gradient

    W. C. FunkM. A. MurphyK. L. HokeE. MuthsS. M. AmburgeyE. M. Lemmon and A. R. Lemmon
    Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2015

    Demography of common toads after local extirpation of co-occurring midwife toads

    J. Bosch, S. Fernández-Beaskoetxea, R. D. Scherer, S. M. Amburgey, and E. Muths


    Amphibia-Reptilia, 2014



    The effects of hydropattern and predator communities on amphibian occupancy

    S. M. Amburgey, L. L. Bailey, M. Murphy, E. Muths, W. C. Funk
    Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2014

    Effects of hydroperiod duration on survival, developmental rate, and size at metamorphosis in boreal chorus frog tadpoles (Pseudacris maculata)

    S. Amburgey, W. C. Funk, M. Murphy, and E. Muths
    Herpetologica, 2012

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  • Related Sites

    Other interesting websites relevant to ecology, conservation, or collaborator's work

    Miller Applied Population Ecology Lab- Penn State University

    Funk Lab Group- Colorado State University

    Hoke Lab Group- Colorado State University

    Estación científica Yasuní

    Molly Womack Research