Yaun, Ashley

Ashley YaunI began working in the Siefferman-Gangloff lab my senior year of undergrad, mostly focusing on the mammal collection and aquatic field work. What started as a simple question turned into my graduate research, which combines stable isotope ratios and community ecology to provide a more quantitative understanding of the role of eastern hellbenders in different aquatic foodwebs. Interactions among organisms (i.e., trophic interactions) and how they are affected by different abiotic and biotic factors, such as land-use, and competition for food and habitat resources, can provide crucial information about a species' ecological characteristics and ultimately their ecological niche. Past gut content and observational studies have shown that hellbenders tend to be crayfish specialists, but my preliminary results show that in some systems where crayfish production is low, this is not always the case. The facultative behavior of these ancient giant salamanders has been speculated but not empirically studied before this project. I hope to provide wildlife agencies with the first quantitative research on hellbender interactions in communities that can be used to conserve this imperiled salamander in North Carolina