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Dr. Sarah Woodley

Sarah Woodley

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences

225A Mellon Hall
Phone: 412.396.6320


Ph.D., Biology, Arizona State University, 1999
M.S., Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 1992
B.A., French, Indiana University, 1988
B.S., Biology with Honors, Indiana University, 1988

Effects of Environmental Stressors on Amphibian Reproduction and Health; Neuroendocrinology of Chemical Communication: Science Education

Project 1: Impact of Environmental Degradation on Amphibian Health and Reproduction
Environmental contaminants such as the herbicide atrazine, acid mine drainage, natural gas extraction, and pesticides are potential stressors that disrupt physiological processes and behaviors essential to survival and reproduction. I am examining the effects of environmental stressors on amphibian physiology and behavior. This work involves characterizing basic amphibian stress physiology in response to both natural and manmade stressors, in the field and the laboratory. My work measures the effects of environmental stressors on reproductive behavior, anti-predator behavior, stress hormone levels, brain neuropeptide levels, intermediary metabolism, and immune function, including susceptibility to the amphibian chytrid fungus.

Project 2: Sex Differences in Chemical Communication
Sex differences in the nervous system are correlated with sex differences in behavior, physiology and disease. Many structures of the nervous system exhibit sex differences in size, but it is still unclear as to how a difference in neural structure translates into a difference in functionality. My research seeks to understand the function and physiological regulation of sexual dimorphism in the size of a sensory neuroepithelium. My model is the sexually dimorphic vomeronasal organ in plethodontid salamanders. In this family of salamanders, the vomeronasal organ (a chemosensory neuroepithelium) is twice as big in males as in females, both in absolute size and relative to body size. The simple structure of the neuroepithelium makes it ideal for studies of structure-function relationships. My research integrates behavioral, physiological, neuroendocrine, and molecular approaches.

Project 3: Application-Based Service-Learning
As part of an NSF TUES grant, I am testing a novel pedagogy in my undergraduate physiology courses. The pedagogy combines novel research, science communication, and community engagement in a classroom laboratory experience. Please see http://abslnews.weebly.com for more information about ABSL and how I am implementing it.

Recent Publications

Woodley*, S.K., J.T. Costa, R.C. Bruce. 2017. Introduction to the Special Highlands Conference on Plethodontid Salamander Biology, Herpetologica 73: xx-xx.

Woodley*, S.K. 2017. Life in the Slow Lane: Stress Responses in Plethodontid Salamanders. Herpetologica 73:xx-xx.

Thomas*, J.R. and S.K. Woodley. 2017. The effects of testosterone on amphibian wound healing. 2017. General and Comparative Endocrinology 247:8-15. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2017.03.014.

Wilburn*, D.B., , K.A. Doty, A.J. Chouinard, S.L. Eddy, S.K. Woodley, L. D. Houck, and R.C. Feldhoff. 2017. Olfactory effects of a hypervariable multicomponent pheromone in the red-legged salamander, Plethodon shermani. PLoS One. 12(3): e0174370. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174370.

Thomas, J.R., A. MagyanUG, P.E. Freeman, and S.K. Woodley*. 2017. Testing hypotheses about individual variation in plasma corticosterone in free-living salamanders. J. Experimental Biology, 220(Pt 7):1210-1221. doi: 10.1242/jeb.149765.

Fonner, C.W., S.A. Patel, S.M. Boord, M.D. Venesky, and S.K. Woodley*. 2017. Effects of the stress hormone, corticosterone, on infection and disease in salamanders exposed to the amphibian fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 123: 159-171. doi: 10.3354/dao03089.

Woodley*, S.K. and B.A. Porter. 2015. Handling stress increases expression of sexual behavior in a salamander with an explosive mating strategy. J. Zoology, doi:10.1111/jzo.12295.

Woodley*, S.K., B. MattesUG, E.Y. YatesUG, and R.A. Relyea. 2015. Exposure to sublethal concentrations of a pesticide or predator cues induces changes in brain architecture in larval amphibians. Oecologia 179: 655-665.

Thomas*, J.R., and S.K. Woodley. 2015. Treatment with corticosterone delays wound healing in male and female salamanders. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 216:33-38.

Fonner, C.W., and S.K. Woodley*. 2015. Testing the predation stress hypothesis. Behaviour 152:797-819.

Woodley, S. 2015. Chemosignals, Hormones, and Amphibian Reproduction. Hormones and Behavior 68:3-13.

Woodley*, S.K, P.E. Freeman, and L.F. Ricciardella. 2014. Environmental acidification is not associated with altered plasma corticosterone levels in the stream-side salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus. General and Comparative Endocrinology 201C: 8-15.

Woodley*, S.K. 2014. Chemical signaling in amphibians In Neurobiology of Chemical Communication (C. Mucignat-Caretta, Ed.) pp. 251-280, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Frontiers in Neuroscience Series. Invited review chapter.

Dostilio, L.D., N. Conti, R. Kronk, Y.L.Weideman, S.K. Woodley, and N. Trun. 2013. Civic leaning through community engagement: coherence among diverse disciplines. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education 3:43-64.

Wack, C.L., M.K. RatayUG, and S.K. Woodley*. 2013. Effects of corticosterone on locomotory activity in red-legged salamanders. Herpetologica 69: 118-126.

Kiemnec-Tyburczy K.M.*, S. K. Woodley, R.A. Watts, S.J. Arnold and L. D. Houck. 2012. Expression of vomeronasal receptors and related signaling molecules in the nasal cavity of a caudate amphibian (Plethodon shermani). Chemical Senses 37:335-346.

Wack, C.L.*, S.E DuRant, W.A. Hopkins, M.B. Lovern, R.C. Feldhoff, and S.K. Woodley. 2012. Elevation of plasma corticosterone to physiologically relevant levels increased metabolic rate in a terrestrial salamander. Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry. Part A, Molecular and Integrative Physiology 161:153-158.

BlileyUG, J.M. and S.K. Woodley*. 2012. The effects of repeated handling and treatment with corticosterone on behavior in an amphibian (Ocoee salamander: Desmognathus ocoee). Physiology and Behavior 105: 1132-1139.

Kiemnec-Tyburczy*, K.M., S.K. Woodley, P.W. Feldhoff, R.C. Feldhoff and L.D. Houck. 2011. Ancestral mode of courtship pheromone delivery does not increase receptivity in female red-legged salamanders, Plethodon shermani. J. of Herpetology 45: 169-173.

Woodley*, S. K. 2010. Hormones and reproductive behaviors in amphibians In Hormones and Reproduction in Vertebrates, Volume 2: Amphibia (D.O Norris, K.H. Lopez, Eds.), pp. 143-169, Academic Press. Invited review chapter.

Wack*, C.L., M.B. Lovern, and S.K. Woodley. 2010. Transdermal delivery of corticosterone in terrestrial amphibians. General and Comparative Endocrinology 169: 269-275.

Woodley*, S.K., and E.L. Lacy. 2010. An acute stressor alters steroid hormone levels, activity, but not sexual behavior in male and female mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ocoee). Hormones and Behavior 58:427-432.

Woodley*, S.K., 2010. Pheromonal Communication in Amphibians. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural and Behavioral Physiology 196:713-727. Invited review paper.

Ricciardella, L.F., J.M. BlileyUG, C.C. FethUG and S.K. Woodley*. 2010. Acute stressors increase plasma corticosterone and decrease activity in a terrestrial salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus), Physiology and Behavior 101:81-86.

Schubert, S.N., C.L. Wack, L.D. Houck, P.W. Feldhoff, R.C. Feldhoff, and S.K. Woodley*. 2009. Exposure to pheromones increases plasma corticosterone concentrations in a terrestrial salamander. General and Comparative Endocrinology 161:271-275.

Largen,UG W. and S.K. Woodley*. 2008. Cutaneous tail glands, noxious skin secretions, and scent marking in a terrestrial salamander (Plethodon shermani). Herpetologica 63:270-280. featured article January 2009 BioOne

Schubert, S.N., L.D. Houck, P.W. Feldhoff, R.C. Feldhoff, and S.K. Woodley*. 2008. Effects of sex on chemosensory communication in a terrestrial salamander (Plethodon shermani). Hormones and Behavior 54:270-277.

BennerUG, S.L., and S.K. Woodley*. 2007. The reproductive pattern of male Desmognathine salamanders (Family Plethodontidae) is neither associated nor dissociated. Hormones and Behavior 51:542-547. cover article

Woodley*, S.K. 2007. Sex steroid hormones and sexual dimorphism of chemosensory structures in a terrestrial salamander (Plethodon shermani). Brain Research 1138: 95-103.

Schubert, S.N., L.D. Houck, P.W. Feldhoff, R.C. Feldhoff, and S.K. Woodley*. 2006. Effects of androgens on behavioral and vomeronasal responses to chemosensory cues in male terrestrial salamanders (Plethodon shermani). Hormones and Behavior 50: 469-476.


2017 Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching, Duquesne University
2017 Gaultier Community-Engaged Teaching Fellow, Duquesne University
2016 Creative Teaching Award, Duquesne University 
2012 Mentor Award for Excellence in Advising Graduate Students, Duquesne University
2012 Duquesne University Presidential Scholarship Award
2012 Nominated by the Department of Biological Sciences for the Faculty Excellence Award in Scholarship for the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences 
2012 Featured as an expert in a weekly magazine published by the American Chemical Society: Everts, S. First Airborne Pheromone. Chemical and Engineering News, Jan. 24th, 2012.
2011-12 National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences
2011 Invited Participant in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology, Aug. 8 -13, 2011, Yale University
2010 Creative Teaching Award, Duquesne University
2009 Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching, Duquesne University
2009-present Associate Editor of the journal entitled Herpetologica
2007 Young Investigator Award, International Symposium of Amphibian and Reptile Endocrinology and Neurobiology, Berkeley CA, March 26-28, 2007
2002 Best Postdoctoral Poster Presentation, 29th New England Endocrinology Conference, Amherst, MA, October 5th, 2002
1997-98 P.E.O. Scholars Award
1997 Honorable Mention, Aubrey Gorbman Outstanding Student Paper Award, Division of Comparative Endocrinology, Meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
1996 Aubrey Gorbman Outstanding Student Paper Award, Division of Comparative Endocrinology, Meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
1994-97 Regents Graduate Academic Scholarship, Arizona State University
1989 Eigenmann Scholarship, Department of Biology, Indiana University
1989 Beryl Showers Holland Award, Tri Kappa Society, Indiana University
1988 Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society, Indiana University
1987 Fernandus and Elizabeth Payne Scholarship in Zoology, Indiana University
1985-89 Honors Division Scholarship, Indiana University