BEHAVIORAL LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY
& CONSERVATION BIOLOGY

RESEARCH - Current projects

PH.D. DISSERTATION
An integrative study in the behavioral landscape ecology of Sherman's fox squirrels:
implications for animal conservation in a changing world


Advisers: Dr. Bob McCleery (University of Florida) and Dr. Mike Conner (Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center)

Committee members: Dr. Mathieu Basille (University of Florida), Dr. Eben Broadbent (University of Florida), Dr. Sadie Ryan (University of Florida), Dr. Andy Sih (University of California, Davis)

My Ph.D. dissertation research uses the Sherman’s fox squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani) as a model species to understand how a variety of external and internal factors affect animal space use, movement behavior, and habitat selection. Specifically, I am investigating biotic and abiotic variables in the environment at multiple spatiotemporal scales, the behavioral traits of individual squirrels, and potential interactions of these factors. To do this, I am integrating datasets on animal locations from GPS collars, environmental variables from weather stations and remote sensing platforms, and individual-level behavioral trait studies.

Objectives:

Objective 1. Determine the effects of GPS sampling frequency and sampling timing on space use inferences for small mammals.
Objective 2. Determine how individual fox squirrels’ behavioral traits vary among and within individuals.
Objective 3. Determine how integrating variation in the biotic and abiotic environment at fine spatial and/or temporal scales improves our understanding of fox squirrel habitat and resource selection compared to traditional field studies.
 
Objective 4. Determine how abiotic and biotic variables in the environment at multiple spatiotemporal scales interact with animal personality to affect habitat selection and movement behavior.
For more information:
You can now view and interact with some of our fox squirrel location data on Movebank: 
http://tinyurl.com/movebank-foxsquirrels
Also, check out our research project webpage for more info, photos, and videos!

Collaborators:

Alex Potash
Wesley Boone
Dr. Eben Broadbent, SPEC Lab

Sergio Marconi, Weecology
 

Research technicians and volunteers:

Kristen Beattie
Zach Bell

Levi Brown

Diane Episcopio

Jaime Neill

Lisa Pipino
Savannah Ryburn

Shelby Shiver

This material is based upon work supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. (DGE-1256259) and through the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Program (NSF Awards # 1550779 and 1550628). The NEON is a program sponsored by the NSF and operated under cooperative agreement by Battelle Memorial Institute.

This research is conducted at two sites in the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON, Inc.)'s southeastern domain: the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (OSBS) in Florida and the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center (JERC) in Georgia.

Now we must consider in general the common reason for moving with any movement whatever.
—Aristotle

DID YOU KNOW...?
 

The fox squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America; adults can weigh ~800 g to 1.2 kg.

 

Fox squirrels are the most variably colored mammal in North America and individuals can actually be identified from photos or video by their color patterning. They can be solid black, near-black, salt-and-pepper gray, dark to light tan, reddish, and even albino.

Our study is the first research project using GPS collars on fox squirrels. Because of this, we had to test three different kinds of GPS collars on fox squirrels in the field to figure out which was the best one to use.

 

Fox squirrels spend the night in tree cavities and/or nests (called dreys) made primarily of leaves, but a single squirrel has more than one nest. Some individuals may use as many as 20 or 30 different nests in a single year!

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