Masters Theses

Orcid ID


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Adam S. Willcox

Committee Members

Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Bill Sutton


Amphibians receive little attention when it comes to public appreciation or support for their conservation. Despite their ecological importance, salamanders are often little known and overlooked by the general public. To better conserve their rapidly declining populations, it is important to understand and consider public knowledge and attitudes toward salamanders and certain behaviors that negatively affect them—like rock stacking in streams and rivers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is referred to as the “Salamander Capital of the World!” as it is home to more than 30 different species of salamander. One issue facing salamander populations within the park is the altering of waterways through damming and rock stacking. Our questionnaire sought to understand park visitor knowledge of and attitudes toward salamanders as well as feelings toward rock stacking and potential management actions to mitigate damages to local salamander populations. We surveyed 817 visitors (response rate was 85%) and discovered that visitors had little, if any, previous knowledge of salamanders within the park and generally had neutral feelings toward them. Most visitors also had positive or neutral feelings toward rock stacks before being given a small amount of additional information about the negative side effects of stacking or moving rocks from the water. After the additional information was provided, responses were more negative toward rock stacking. Overall, visitors support the idea of park staff managing areas of streams or trails for salamander conservation. The strongest support was for signs along streams and trails, as well as the addition of ranger talks.

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