Research

My research focuses generally on organismal and population ecology and evolutionary biology. My background is in the phylogenetics, speciation, and the evolution of the climatic niche in plethodontid salamanders, and these topics were the focus of my dissertation work. Since receiving my Ph.D., I still primarily work with plethodontid salamanders, however I have expanded my research program at BSU to include non-amphibian systems described below. In particular, as a faculty member at a primarily-undergraduate institution with a high teaching load, my research program has shifted to focus on collaborative regional and national ecological projects. In this way I can involve undergraduates in day-to-day data collection and analyses, encourage motivated students to develop independent subprojects, and stay connected to a diverse and active group of collaborators. I have also begun research on undergraduate science education, in particular, the effects of bringing authentic research experiences into the classroom.

My research is supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE award #1914798), and several offices and departments at Bridgewater State University: the Department of Biological Sciences, the Office of Undergraduate Research in the Center for Transformative Learning, the Center for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, the Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics, and the Academic Affairs Division.

Plethodon cinereus

Current Projects


SPARCnet

In Fall 2015, I joined the Salamander Population Adaptation Research Collaboration Network (SPARCnet). As part of this research collaborative, I have eight paired plots in the Great Hill Forest on the campus of Bridgewater State University in which we have been closely monitoring P. cinereus populations using capture-mark-recapture methods since April 2017. SPARCnet was spearheaded by Dr. Evan Grant of the United States Geological Survey in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and Dr. David Miller of the Pennsylvania State University, and has grown with collaborators like myself throughout the large range of P. cinereus. SPARCnet aims to unite researchers, educators, and citizen scientists across northeastern North America in a large-scale ecological monitoring project to better understand the impacts of land use and climate change on salamander populations, and how salamanders might adapt to a changing climate. In July 2019, I was awarded a 3-year NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) grant along with four other SPARCnet institutions to develop course-embedded undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) based on our salamander research network. In 2020, I joined the SPARCnet Steering Committee.

MAREN

In Fall 2017, along with my BSU collaborator, Dr. Heather Marella, I joined the Milkweed Adaptation Research and Education Network (MAREN), organized by Dr. Emily Mohl at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN through the Ecology Research as Education Network (EREN). Dr. Marella, myself, and our research students secured milkweed seeds from a local Bridgewater, MA population, and sent them to Dr. Mohl. Seeds were then distributed back to all participants such that they received seeds from their local population + 3 other locations. We grew these seeds in the greenhouse in spring 2018, and then planted seedlings in two common garden plots of 20 plants each (5 plants from each location per plot, 10 plants per location total) in May 2018. Each spring, summer, and fall since then, we have measured plant growth traits and monitored the plants for signs of their health and herbivory. In addition to our research students, students in Dr. Marella's Plant Physiology course (BIOL 341) have also participated in taking measurements.

Snapshot USA

In Fall 2019, I joined the Snapshot USA project, organized through the Smithsonian Institution and eMammal, to participate in the first simultaneous, nationwide camera trapping project in all 50 states. We deployed 8 trail cameras in the Great Hill Forest on the campus of Bridgewater State University during September and October 2019. We tagged mammal species using eMammal software. Once Snapshot USA 2019 concluded, my undergraduate research students and I continued to monitor mammals on campus using our cameras through the winter of 2019 and into 2020. Two students deployed an additional set of cameras in a nearby forest to compare mammal diversity and abundance to our campus forest during Summer 2020, and as of this writing, we are in the middle of Snapshot USA 2020, an effort to collect a second year's worth of data at the same locations as in 2019.

Undergraduate Research Projects

As part of my role as a professor at Bridgewater State University, I mentor undergraduate research students on small projects spanning a few semesters and often a summer or two. These projects typically deal with salamanders, population genetics, and habitat preferences, but the specific details are up to the students involved.

Past Projects


Speciation, ecological divergence, and phylogeny in plethodontid salamanders: My dissertation research

My dissertation research includes the first study to explicitly examine how mitochondrial and nuclear DNA interact in concatenated phylogenetic analyses (Fisher-Reid and Wiens 2011) and the first study to examine the relationship between climatic-niche breadth and the rate of climatic-niche evolution (Fisher-Reid et al. 2012). Additionally, I closely examined a novel case of parapatric separation of sympatric ecotypes along an environmental gradient in the eastern red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus (Fisher-Reid et al. 2013).

Color polymorphism across genus Plethodon

Red/lead (striped/unstriped) color polymorphism occurs in at least 8 species of Plethodon, and there are also a handful of monomorphic (only red or only lead) Plethodon species. Given the work done in P. cinereus which suggests that the two color morphs have differing environmental preferences (suggesting different physiology; e.g., Lotter and Scott 1977, Moreno 1989, Anthony et al. 2008), that, in at least one case, appears to have led to incipient speciation (Fisher-Reid et al. 2013), I have explored the question of whether or not color polymorphism is somehow involved in speciation and physiological tolerances across the genus. The results of this study were recently published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Fisher-Reid and Wiens 2015).

Last Updated: September 10th, 2020