Students Participate in Bioblitz 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Leonore Enfield and Tyler Wise, students from the Sterling College department of natural sciences and mathematics, were invited to present their research at the 2012 Meeting of the Central Plains Society of Mammologists. For the past two years, these students have teamed up with assistant professor of biology, Dr. Jonathan Conard, to study the effects of prairie restoration on small mammals. They have presented their results every year since 2010, and plan to continue their research until 2014.

The students travel to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge three times a year to trap, identify, tag and count small mammals in two locations. The first location is their control site. This area is covered in diverse and natural grasses that are indigenous to the Kansas prairie. Their experimental site has been overgrown by plum bushes, which are not indigenous to the area. After trapping in the fall, the plum bushes were mowed over in efforts to eradicate them. Although mowing the bushes did not completely remove them, they grew back less dense and were smaller during the 2011 year.

“It is a great experience for the students to be able to work with Quivira on this project,” said Dr. Conard. “They get the experience of working on an important research project, and Quivira will benefit from the data and information we are collecting. Having them as an educational partner is a great asset to the college.”

After trapping the animals, the team records the animals’ gender, health condition, if it has parasites, whether it is a new animal or a recaptured animal, if it is pregnant or not, and if there are clear signs of sexual activity. This year, after the first round of prairie restoration, the team found that the diversity in the area had increased, and even added a new type of mammal, the silky pocket mouse. In order to accurately describe the long-term effects of removing plum bushes, the team will continue their study for three more years. This will allow for more data, and further removal of plum bush plants.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge held another educational event on October 14-15: Bioblitz 2011. Quivira teamed up with Sterling College and Fort Hays State University to identify species and plants in the reserve to create a biological inventory. During the 24-hour period, Sterling College set traps to capture small mammals such as mice, voles, and shrews. Fort Hays and Quivira teamed up to identify birds, herptiles, fish, and plants. The inventory will be used to help track the diversity of species on the refuge and monitor changes that may occur. Three students joined Dr. Conard in representing Sterling College: Leonore Enfield, Tyler Wise, and T.J. Dommatt.