Angie Richards (Biology '12) received funding to purchase equipment to enable research on amphibian populations on South Hill. Support is provided by the Thomas J. Metzger '02 and David C. Metzger '05 Undergraduate Research Fund and the Ithaca Fund.
Our goal for this semester is to assess the size of present amphibian populations, specifically Ambystoma maculatum salamanders, in the artificial wetlands and the White Oak Swamp on South Hill. In addition we would like to redirect some Ambystoma from the swamp to the artificial wetlands for breeding in the spring. These are close enough that the population should keep using the native winter habitat, but we hope to enhance the population by helping them colonize the additional breeding habitat.
The research would require the placement of drift fences and pitfall traps for the capture-mark and-recapture of spotted salamanders in these areas. The supplies will enable us to acquire a vast amount of knowledge about this species on South Hill. This would not only be beneficial to our personal research,but would also provide insight into the health of the newly constructed artificial wetlands.
Laura Louon (Biology '11) receives funding for her honors research,"Movement Behavior in the Eastern Chipmunk"
- Fall Recipient of the H&S Educational Grant Initiative
- Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research to support her honors thesis on movement behavior in chipmunks. These grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students. "The Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research program has a highly competitive application process and only approximately 20% of applicants receive any level of funding."
Animal personality is becoming a burgeoning topic in animal behavior. Many of these studies attempt to correlate animals' movements within mazes and arenas with different personality traits. The assumption is made that an individual's movements in these artificial settings is representative of its natural behavior and can be used to predict the animal's behavior in the wild. This information could eventually be used to the aid of conservation efforts. For example, one could sample an animal population for levels of exploratory behavior and based on the percentage of individuals that are very exploratory and therefore moving farther out into their environment, make decisions on how the land should be managed.
For my independent Biology Honors project, I have chosen to investigate the assumption that an animal's movement in the wild can be correlated with its movement in man-made arenas and mazes. I will capture eastern chipmunks on South Hill and run them through both an open-field arena and a maze. Eight of these individuals will also be radio-collared so that I may relocate them and observe their natural movement behavior in the wild. Furthermore, I wish to determine the effect that the size of the open-field arena has on the chipmunks' behaviors as some of these arenas in published papers are no more then one-and-half-times the length of the targeted animals. To test this, I will therefore also run animals through two different sized arenas and determine the effect of arena size on the movements of the individuals. Hopefully, this part of my project will shed light on how large these arenas should be, and whether such small arenas can even be used as predictors of behavior in the wild.
While I have been doing research in the Biology Department for two years, all these projects have been laboratory-based. This project will allow me to work in the field for the first time and learn the skills associated with it. I will learn trapping techniques, how to handle a wild animal to sex and tag it, and the difficulties of running live tests outside on the capture site. These are valuable skills to possess as I start applying to graduate programs. Furthermore, moving onto field work after two years in the laboratory, shows my versatility and my ability to learn and adapt to new situations. I am confident that this year-long project will give me a competitive advantage like no other as I feel that not many students have the opportunity to do such applied, hands-on and independent research during their undergraduate education. Hence, this pilot project will be considered successful in my eyes with little regards to how much data or what conclusions I may draw. While I hope to reach valuable conclusions, field-based projects compared to laboratory research come with many more difficulties and unpredicatable circumstances and hence the skills I will learn are of much more value to me than the actual results.
My faculty adviser is Leann Kanda. As my adviser, she has helped me develop this project and will teach me all the skills I require to complete my project, such as trapping and handling of the wild animals. After that point, I will carry on with my data-collection on my own, with Leann and my Honors Committee supervising my efforts. Once the data is collected, Leann will also guide me in multi-variate analysis this data requires to be analyzed.