Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Earl D. McCoy, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Henry R. Mushinsky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David B. Lewis, Ph.D.


Bahiagrass, Fragmentation, Scrub, Federally Threatened


The Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi) is a federally threatened lizard precinctive to scrub habitat, a pyrogenic habitat that experiences fires infrequently. Plestiodon reynoldsi spends most of its time right under the sand surface, moving, or “sand swimming,” through the granular substrate found in Florida’s central ridges. While the distribution of this species has been greatly reduced, agricultural development of P. reynoldsi habitat has led to potentially suitable fragmented scrub occurring near bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) pastures. Bahiagrass is widely used as a pasture grass in sandy soils of the southeast United States, because of its deep and far-reaching root system. Rooted vegetation may dampen the ability of this species to efficiently sand swim. My research addresses how bahiagrass impacts P. reynoldsi habitat use and movement by documenting their distribution in bahiagrass pasture at two sites located in Polk County, FL, USA which are under evaluation as P. reynoldsi habitat, and by observing their movements in a laboratory setting. Direct sampling in the form of pitfall trap arrays was used between March through August of 2018, when the species is most active. My observations in the field led me to plan a laboratory-based experiment, where faux-bahiagrass was used to simulate realistic field conditions based on the surface area of each sample. I devised a novel method for short-term monitoring of P. reynoldsi movements in a laboratory setting from above the sand surface with minimal disturbance, by locating a piece of metal foil attached to the dorsum with a handheld metal detector. A single individual is placed into an enclosure and its movements monitored for 24 hours to analyze the habitat suitability of P. reynoldsi. AIC model selection was used with data collected in the 24-hour experiments to determine the importance of several factors to habitat suitability. This research will assist in determining suitability of habitat consisting of adjoining scrub and bahiagrass pasture for P. reynoldsi, inform future conservation plans, and ascertain how their movements patterns may be influenced by agricultural landscapes.