Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

James. R Vonesh

Second Advisor

Ivan Gomez-Mestre


Organisms with complex life cycles may experience diverse stressors during their development. Stressors experienced in early life stages may influence the quantity and quality of individuals in later life stages. However, it is unclear if these effects persist later in life and how they may influence population dynamics. This dissertation uses two amphibian species, the Western spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes) and the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) to explore how biotic and abiotic factors experienced in aquatic and terrestrial environments influence phenotype and survival. We use a combination of field mesoscosm studies, laboratory studies and modeling to explore how early life history stressors persist in diverse environmental contexts. In Chapter 1, pond drying and larval density negatively influence multiple aspects of phenotype in the Western spadefoot toad. In Chapter 2, reduced body size due to larval stressors persisted in the first year of life in spotted salamanders in both high and low terrestrial resource environments. Additionally, there was no relationship between size at metamorphosis and post-metamorphic terrestrial survival. In Chapter 3, low terrestrial moisture levels reduced post-metamorphic growth rates by reducing food intake in juvenile spotted salamanders from both high and low larval density treatments. In Chapter 4, we scale up the effects of reduced body size in the Western spadefoot toad to explore how reduced body size due to pond drying may influence population densities using a stage specific matrix model. Reduced body size, by delaying maturity, may reduce adult densities in the Western spadefoot toad. This dissertation suggests that life stages are highly interconnected, as stressors experienced early in life stage may persist through their effects on phenotype in the absence of compensatory mechanisms. Variation in later life stages may also influence phenotype, but may not completely erase effects of early environments. Stressors experienced early in life may also translate to population level consequences, especially when organisms experience multiple stressors across life stages.


© Julie Françoise Charbonnier

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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Tuesday, August 09, 2022