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NCC Researchers Contribute to Discovery of New Salamander Species

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Some research just takes a little time and patience to make a significant impact.

Nash Community College students and Lead Researcher Dr. David Beamer are among a team of scientists who contributed to the discovery of a new species of salamander in North Carolina.

The findings are documented in a research paper published by The Herpetologists’ League in December 2020 titled “A New Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata Complex) from the Sandhills of North Carolina,” by authors Stuart, Bryan L., Beamer, David A., Farrington, Heather L., Beane, Jeffrey C., Chek, Danielle L., et al.

“I think many biologists dream of being able to describe a new species but not many of them ever get to realize that dream,” NCC Natural Sciences Instructor, David Beamer said. “So as a salamander biologist it is tremendously exciting to be part of the research team describing the Carolina Sandhills Salamander.”

The NCC team spent one and a half years taking advantage of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Opportunity Award, which granted them access to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. During that time, every Friday, they were allowed to work in the museum’s Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab.

Using specimens housed at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, researchers and students alike examined mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. After careful and considerate review, the conclusion was a new species had been unearthed: a two-lined salamander in the Sandhills of North Carolina.


Dr. Beamer finding one of the new species November 19, 2016

But this discovery did not happen overnight. Aside from the genomic work, Dr. Beamer and NCC Natural Sciences BIO 143 and 146 students also participated in field work from 2016-2019. “In these classes we examined the contact zone between the new species and a wide-spread species that was described 200 years ago,” Beamer said.


BIO 146 Fall 2016 trip 4, Nov 18-20, 2019, Uwharrie Trail, NC

In addition to Dr. Beamer, the following former NCC Natural Sciences students assisted with the genomic portion of the study at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:

  • Ismael Gomez
  • Clayton Lynch
  • Inderson Mirchandani
  • Kayla Gomez
  • Alyssa King
  • Jesus Rivera


Image of new salamander species taken by Dr. David Beamer during BIO 146 Fall 2019 Trip 4, Sandhills region, NC, November 15-17, 2019

NSF Research Opportunity Awards provide funding to support research by faculty members at predominately undergraduate institutions, like Nash Community College. Additionally, support is given to faculty in research that engages them in their professional field, builds capacity for research at their home institution, and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.

“As a mentor and biology instructor it has been very gratifying to be able to involve students in the scientific process during the description of this species,” Beamer said. “Even more rewarding is to see how many of those students have built on these experiences to get research positions at four year schools, get into PhD programs and to start careers in the STEM field.”


Image of Dr. Beamer taken November 19, 2016 during weekend trip with students when he found new species

The awards similarly support faculty research, typically allowing faculty to work as visiting scientists at research-intensive organizations where they collaborate with other NSF-supported investigators.