Zoology major Maria Conklin and biology major Chantel Griggs studied how tree coverage affects the species abundance and diversity of rodents in Grant County, presenting their findings at the spring WNMU Academic Symposium.
“As the order rodentia is a very diverse group within mammals, they are equipped with many different adaptations to handle different ecological factors. Observing where different species of rodents prefer to live could demonstrate these diverse specializations,” their poster read.
Testing two hypotheses (tree coverage does impact diversity and abundance; tree coverage does not impact diversity and abundance), they set up humane traps throughout the surrounding area, including in Bayard, on the Pitchfork Ranch and in Pinos Altos. Each area had 20 traps and was divided based on tree coverage. For instance, they set 10 traps 50 meters apart from each other in a tree-covered area in Pinos Altos and did the same in a mostly tree-less area one mile away. “Bayard and Pitchfork Ranch received the same type of treatment,” their poster said.
Leaving the traps overnight, they checked the traps at sunrise and identified and observed any rodents caught. The rodents were released in the exact area each was found.
Griggs said the process was her first field work experience. “I was so excited to catch our first rodent!”
They caught 13 rodent individuals total and became more comfortable working with and handling animals over the course of their experiment.
The study revealed that tree coverage does not have an impact on the abundance or diversity of rodents in Grant County.
Considering a Ph.D. upon graduation, Conklin said she plans on continuing to work with mammals. Chantell likes biology as a whole and is looking to teach when she wraps up her degree at WNMU.