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The Wildlife Conservation Lab, part of West Virginia University - School of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service - Northern Research Station, conducts applied research to better understand — and predict — responses of wildlife to environmental changes. We provide science-based knowledge that can be used to assist with conservation efforts for vulnerable species and communities.

Meet Our Lab Members


Our lab conducts applied research to assist with conservation of wildlife populations and communities under changing environmental and management conditions. We primarily study species of conservation concern, with a focus on sensitive species that occur in regional national forests. We employ traditional field-based methods, mesocosm and laboratory experiments, statistical and spatial analyses, and simulation modeling to better understand, predict, and ultimately assist with management of wildlife.

Current student-led research projects  –  PI / Co-PI

  • Wood Turtle abundance-habitat relationships in the Northwoods region (Jena Staggs)
  • Wood Turtle diel activity patterns (Jena Staggs)
  • Optimizing Wood Turtle population survey design (Ally Beard)
  • Temporary emigration of Wood Turtles from monitoring sites (Ally Beard)
  • Wood Turtle population responses to oil and gas development in Pennsylvania (Sara Crayton)
  • Wood Turtle distribution in the Upper Midwest (Sara Crayton
  • Spotted Turtle status and distribution in West Virginia (Joel Mota)
  • Responses of woodland salamanders to climate change in Central Appalachia (Lacy Rucker)

Current student-led research projects – Collaborator

  • Predictive models to guide stocking in tournament fisheries (Alex Benecke)
  • Distribution, activity patterns, and habitat selection of bats in Texas
  • Wood turtle microhabitat selection in Minnesota (Cole Weigartz)

Current PI-led research projects

  • Wood turtle ecology and population monitoring
  • Responses of stream salamanders to prescribed fire in Central Appalachia
  • Cheat Mountain Salamander microhabitat associations
  • Kirtland's Warbler population responses to environmental and management changes
  • Book co-editor: Amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin

Focal species of concern

  • Cheat Mountain Salamander (Plethodon nettingi)
  • Cow Knob Salamander (Plethodon punctatus)
  • Houston Toad (Anaxyrus houstonensis)
  • Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
  • Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Focal geographic areas

  • Allegheny National Forest (Pennsylvania)
  • Eastern Panhandle (West Virginia)
  • George Washington National Forest (Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Lost Pines (Texas)
  • Lower Rio Grande Valley (Texas)
  • Monongahela National Forest (West Virginia)
  • New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)
  • Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan)