Date of Graduation

Spring 2014


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Day Ligon


Reptile and amphibian populations are rapidly declining world-wide, making an in depth understanding of herpetological communities of vital importance. Therefore, I used seven methods to conduct a herpetological survey of a diverse community in southeastern Oklahoma. I documented 53 species of amphibians and reptiles, including five species of conservation concern. Incident encounters, funnel traps placed along drift fences, and turtle traps was the most effective combination of survey methods and resulted in detection of every species. I collected additional data on the turtle communities in the two lakes at this site. Kinosternon subrubrum, Sternotherus odoratus, and Trachemys scripta were the dominant species in both lakes. The community structure and distribution of biomass differed between the lakes, but when species were grouped by niche type, the biomass of each guild was nearly identical in both lakes. I used computer simulations to test several population estimators and found that treating males and females separately and combining all recapture periods into a single recapture period improved population and sex ratio estimates. Finally, I measured movement, activity, and reproductive patterns of western chicken turtles (Deirochelys reticularia miaria), a species that is both understudied and of conservation concern. Individuals in my population were only active from March–August, restricted nesting to May–July, and were omnivores rather than carnivorous. All of these traits were previously unknown and differ markedly from the behaviors of other D. reticularia subspecies.


western chicken turtle, Deirochelys reticularia miaria, survey methods, population estimates, sex ratio, community, reproductive ecology, diet

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© Donald T. McKnight

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