I have been conducting research on the ETBU Environmental Studies Area since 2002. My research centers on two areas; habitat use of small mammals, in particular the white-footed mouse and southern-short-tailed shrew, and a winter count of birds inhabiting the Environmental Studies Area.
The Environmental Studies Area is located adjacent to the main campus within walking distance of Murphy Science building. This provides a unique opportunity for me as well as ETBU students in that we have an undisturbed area for research within a larger urban ecosystem. Urban ecosystems of this nature are of importance for ecological research because they provide an indicator of the response a species may have to encroaching human activities. I have been conducting mark-recapture research on small mammals at the Environmental Studies Area every fall since 2002. My research has resulted in some interesting findings concerning the white-footed mouse. These mice are considered to be a generalist in relation to habitat use. However, during the time of my research, I have not captured these mice in most areas having similar habitat to other studies. Some of this may be due to the urban habitat. However, recently I have found the mice to be concentrated near a permanent water source on the Environmental Studies Area indicating that, at least during a long-term drought, they may concentrate near a water source. I am conducting further studies to determine if this continues and if some factor in addition to water may be causing these results.
In addition to the research on white-footed mice, I have encourage students to get involved with my research and to engage in research of their own. Some of this research has resulted in publications for our students. I have published two papers with Abel Muñoz, a 2005 graduate in Biology, on the southern-short-tailed shrew. The paper published in The Texas Journal of Science on Food Habits of the Southern Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina carolinensis) in East Texas was initiated by Abel as a result of his work with my research on small mammals.
The Environmental Studies Area also provides a location for students to do Honors’ Research. Cullen Pressley, a 2012 graduate in Biology, completed his Honors’ Project Research, A Comparison of the Woody Vegetation in Adjacent Upland and Riparian Areas Inhabited by Beaver (Castor canadensis), on the Environmental Studies Area. Cullen’s research has been accepted for publication in The Texas Journal of Science. Brittney Garner, a current student, is finishing her Honors' Project Research using the Environmental Studies Area. She is doing an assessment of the plant community in the grassy area after 8 years of undisturbed succession. Michelle Ray recently completed her research on vehicle-induced mortality in raccoons. The research has been submitted for publication.
For the past 4 years, during the winter months I conduct a winter bird count. I also teach a May-term field course, Natural History of Birds of East Texas. The May-term course started in 2003. As part of the course requirements, students write species accounts of three birds that have been observed through the duration of the time the course has been taught. These accounts have been placed into a Field Guide of the Birds of the Environmental Studies Area. To date, there have been 117 species of birds observed during May and 51 species observed during the winter count.
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