Extinction risk in fossil and living amphibians (PhD project)


Amphibians are the most endangered terrestrial vertebrate group [1]. Several studies examined biological as well as environmental and also anthropogenic factors, that can potentially add to extinction risk [2]. Typical influential factors are the geographic range size and bodysize of a species, which have been confirmed in studies on fossils from extinct species as well [3].

Although amphibians are one of the most threatened groups today, their fossil record and therefore the past of amphibians is rarely taken into account. As the fossil record offers to study real extinction events instead of making estimations about the risk, the fossil record of extinct species can give valuable information about factors influencing a species survival.

Beelzebufo ampinga by Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) (Own work). GFDL or CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My work

Part of my PhD project is to create a model, based on the fossil record of amphibians, which identifies important traits that influence extinction risk. This model is going to be applied to living amphibians to compare the predicted extinction risk with the risk category they got assigned by the IUCN Red List.


  1. Baillie, J. E. M., Griffiths, J., Turvey, S. T., Loh, J. & Collen, B. 2010 Evolution Lost: Status and Trends of the World’s Vertebrates. Zoological Society of London.
  2. Sodhi, N. S., Bickford, D., Diesmos, A. C., Lee, T. M., Koh, L. P., Brook, B. W., Sekercioglu, C. H. & Bradshaw, C. J. A. 2008 Measuring the meltdown: drivers of global amphibian extinction and decline. PLoS One 3, e1636. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001636)
  3. Harnik, P. G. 2011 Direct and indirect effects of biological factors on extinction risk in fossil bivalves. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 108, 13594–13599. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1100572108)

Fellow Program Open Science

Besides bridging the gap between the fossil record and current biology in my PhD work, I am interested in different concepts of Open Science. This website was initialized as part of my work as a fellow in the Open Science Fellow Program. Launched for the first time in 2016 by Wikimedia Germany and Stifterverband the fellow program enables 10 scientists from different areas to open up their research by providing guidance and financial support.

I created this website as part of my work in the Open Science Fellow Program. Open Science needs communication, and what better way could there be than making your science explorable online? While learning to use GitHub, I stumbled across GitHub Pages, which resulted in this webpage.

As part of my project in the fellow program, I concentrate of the aspects reproducibility, community feedback and open publishing. If you are looking for inspiration on how you can make your own research more open, the Vienna Principles offer some ideas.

Video summary of the project:


Making your research reproducible is part of good scientific practice. Therefore, I want to publish the R scripts used in my analysis together with the data and the manuscript. This can be part of the electronic supplement but can also be hosted independently on GitHub.

Community feedback

Getting feedback on your work when it comes to peer review is good, but getting feedback even earlier, while it is still in progress, might speed up the whole process. Reaching out to your research community gets you valuable tips on your work. However, this costs time (as building this webpage for example). Therefore a part of my project is the evaluation of opening up your research in terms of costs and benefits.

Open publishing and preprints

Publishing my work in an open access journal will be the last milestone in this project, but before that I plan on something way more interesting. I want to test preprint and preprint servers, which is something that, for biology or paleontology, is sparsely used in my surroundings. Finding the right preprint server to adress the right crowd as well as responding to hopefully plenty of feedback will be valuable experiences and will likely add to quality and make the publication process a bit easier in the end.

Another option in the peer review process is aiming at a journal that offers open peer review, which is getting more and more common and adds to the transparency in the review process.

This page is licensed Creative Commons License

2017 Melanie Tietje
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