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Dr. Andrew Ash presents Salamander Research for Highlands Conference

Dr. Andrew Ash

Although his field studies are conducted under cover of darkness, Dr. Andrew Ash’s research sheds new light on foraging patterns in salamanders of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.  Dr. Ash has studied guilds of salamanders in mountain forests for more than 30 years.  Because of the nocturnal habits of his focal species, Plethodon metcalfi, he sets to work when most people are settling down for the evening.  Broad overlap in the diets of P. metcalfi and four co-occurring species of salamanders indicates competition for food.  Because of its large populations, P. metcalfi would appear to dominate these shared food resources.  Dr. Ash presented his research during the Special Highlands Conference on Plethodontid Salamander Biology.

Dr. Ash was one of more than 60 researchers who presented talks and posters for the conference, which took place over a four-day period (4-7 August 2016) at Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, North Carolina.  Nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, the station has hosted several plethodontid conferences during its 90-year history.  When still president of the Highlands Biological Foundation, Dr. Ash prepared the foreword to the 1998 plethodontid conference proceedings; in it he wrote that each conference “was characterized by exchange of information and ideas, as well as the formation of new friendships and the renewal of old ones. Events such as these are the milestones by which we measure our academic lives.”

Dr. Ash served on the Board of Directors and on the Board of Scientific Advisors for Highlands Biological Station for several years.  These positions were natural fits for him, given his many years of research based at the station.  His research papers on salamanders have appeared in such peer-reviewed science journals as Conservation Biology and Journal of Herpetology

Having strong ties to the environment, Dr. Ash was instrumental in designating the Lumber River as a National Wild and Scenic River and in launching the Environmental Science program at UNC Pembroke.  In recent years, he has served as Co-Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded HERP Project that targeted school children in rural communities, offering them hands-on opportunities to study salamanders, snakes, frogs, and other herps.  He served formerly as Chair of the Biology Department.  Today, his main teaching responsibilities for the Department include Principles of Ecology, Biogeography, Biometrics, and Soils and Hydrology.

Dr. Andrew Ash and corn snake
Dr. Andrew Ash shows children a colorful corn snake

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