Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Michael T. Kinnison

Second Committee Member

Cynthia S. Loftin

Third Committee Member

Malcolm L. Hunter

Additional Committee Members

Timothy M. Waring

Andrew R. Whiteley


Species use a variety of mechanisms to adapt to environmental change. These range from spatially tracking optimal environments, to phenotypically plastic responses and evolutionary adaptation. Due to increases in anthropogenic influence on environments, characteristics of change such as their duration and magnitude are undergoing fundamental shifts away from the natural disturbance regimes that shaped species’ evolution. This dissertation uses empirical data and simulation models to examine the ecological and evolutionary consequences of environmental change across real, heterogeneous landscapes for multiple species, with an emphasis on anthropogenic changes. I used landscape genetics to evaluate the effects of urbanization on two native amphibian species, spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). Population isolation was positively associated with local urbanization and lessened genetic diversity for both species. Resistance surface modelling revealed connectivity was diminished by developed land cover, light roads, interstates, and topography for both species, plus secondary roads and rivers for wood frogs, highlighting the influence of anthropogenic landscape features relative to natural features. Further study of a subset of wood frog populations revealed adaptive evolution associated with urban environments. I identified a set of 37 loci with the capacity to correctly reassign individuals into rural or urban populations with 87.5 and 93.8% accuracy, respectively. I developed an agent-based model to examine how gene flow, rates of change, and strength of landscape spatial and temporal autocorrelation influence abundance outcomes for species experiencing an environmental shift. Analysis of 36 environmental scenarios suggests that environmental variation, which is an emergent property of landscape autocorrelation, is negatively associated with the magnitude and duration of abundance declines following environmental change. Higher levels of gene flow lessened this effect, particularly in abrupt change scenarios, although gradual changes also resulted in demographic costs. Lastly, I used an investigation of an emerging disease in American lobsters (Homarus americanus) to study within-generation responses to environmental pressures. Using whole transcriptome shotgun sequencing I identified eight differentially expressed unigenes associated with the disease and seven related to environmental differences. Collectively, my dissertation provides numerous examples of how anthropogenically induced environmental change can direct ecological and evolutionary processes.

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Table A.2

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Table D.3

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Evolution Commons