Katharina “Kat” Soto

Conservation Action Plan: Green Salamander

Contributed by: Katharina “Kat” Soto



Ability, Animals, Behavior, Biodiversity, Black, Conservation, Demography, First generation, Fundamental research, Migration/orientation/navigation, North America, Observational, Restoration, Terrestrial, Veteran, Woman



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Soto, K. M., McKee, R. K., and Newman, J. C. 2021. Conservation Action Plan: Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) Species Complex. Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. link



Slide 1: Researcher’s Background

Kat is a graduate student at the University of Iliinois at Urbana-Champaign studying ecology, evolution, conservation and behavior of reptiles and amphibians.

PB: Why did you become a biologist?
KS: My interest in biology is not something that I’ve had all my life, but was developed during my undergraduate studies at Towson University! I found it exciting to study and learn the concepts of Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology.

PB: What is your favorite part about your job?
KS: I love engaging the public and helping them interact and connect with animals!

PB: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are?
KS: As a first-generation student, I didn’t have role models to inspire me to go to college. So, when I graduated high school, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. After five years away from school, I decided to pursue a college degree after my enlistment. In the beginning of my studies, I struggled to keep up with the fast pace of college instruction and started to fall behind in my introductory biology classes. I approached one of my professors to let him know that it had been some time since I was last in school, and that I was struggling with the material. I will always remember him telling me “Not everyone is cut out to be a biology major”. However, I did not allow his pessimism to deter me from pursuing my goal of a biology degree. My perseverance paid off and I graduated Cum Laude with my degree in Biology, and a concentration of Ecology, Evolution, Conservation.

PB: What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?
KS: Never stop pursuing your passion! Sometimes life takes a detour, but as long as you keep moving forward you will achieve your goals!

PB: Do you feel that any dimension of your identity is invisible or under-represented/marginalized in STEM?
KS: Yes

PB: Can you elaborate on your answer above?
KS: I fall into a very small minority in the STEM community as an African American woman that is also a first-generation college student and a disabled veteran.


Slide 2: Research Overview

Take home message of study

This Conservation Action Plan (CAP) started as a final project for Kat’s undergraduate Conservation Biology class at Towson University. Students who submitted projects that were thoroughly researched and well written were given the opportunity to continue to work on their projects and submit it to the Southeast Partners of Amphibians and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC) for publication. Kat continued to work on the CAP for the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) Species Complex after graduation and throughout her first semester of graduate school. Due to Kat’s persistence and thorough research, her CAP has been published on SEPARC’s website! 

Study system

Green salamander coloration can provide camouflage among moss and lichen. Photo: Todd Pierson


Slide 3: Key Research Points

Main figure

This figure shows the State Conservation Status for the green salamander across its geographic distribution. The statuses range from critically imperiled to vulnerable (NatureServe 2011).


Societal Relevance

The Conservation Action Plan is intended to assist in the petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase the listing of the green salamander under the Endangered Species Act. Also, this document contributes to a broader Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation initiative to “describe specific management practices that are intended to serve as guidelines that land managers can use to implement conservation and management actions that provide a positive conservation benefit to a particular species”.


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