Vertebrates

Nearly all living organisms regulate their body temperature to some extent as a way of buffering the effects of thermally stochastic environments and enhancing physiological performances. Such performances have a temperature, or range of temperatures, where the output of specific performances are maximal (i.e., optimal temperature). But are all benefits maximized at the same body temperature(s)? Are all benefits of equal value? And how important are such performances during competitive scenarios for limited resources? The interested student(s) will complete a two-part study. First, the student will take various individual performance measures (e.g., maximum sprint speed, running endurance, and energy intake/feeding rate) of lizards (Sceloporus jarrovi) at different body temperatures to determine optimal temperatures for each performance. For the second part of the study, the student(s) will design a study to determine which performance(s) is most important in determining dominance between paired conspecifics. Is speed or stamina better for obtaining and defending a limited thermal resource? Would starting paired lizards at different body temperatures change the results?  (Mentor:Travis Rusch)

Reintroduction of the Gunnison’s prairie dog on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge has taken place since 2005.  The overall goal is to restore a stable population of Gunnison’s prairie dogs to a semi-arid grassland ecosystem where the species was historically located on the Sevilleta NWR.  Due to its burrowing and grazing behavior, prairie dogs are widely recognized as ecosystem engineers throughout the North American grassland. Their nodification and regulation of habitat affects vegetation structure and a variety of species throughout their ecosystem.  In order to better understand these effects, many studies have been conducted on the responses of small mammals to the presence of prairie dogs.  However, most of these have been conducted on the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) and extrapolated to the other four species in the genus. In this study, the effect of the reintroduction of the Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) on the abundance and diversity of small mammal populations is surveyed. (Mentor: Stephanie Baker)

Little is known about the population densities and effects of brood parasitism on the Gray Vireo in New Mexico. The Gray Vireo is a Species of Conservation Concern (USFWS 2002), listed as Threatened in the State of New Mexico (New Mexico Game and Fish 2008), and their nests are frequently parasitized by the Brown-Headed Cowbird. This projects occurs at two study sites in Los Pinos mountains. The students will determine the population density in the two areas, find nesting vireos, monitor nests, and determine the effects of brood parasitism. (Mentor: Kathy Granillo)

Native prairie dogs, K-rats and non-native (cattle) herbivores may have a considerable impact on plant community structure by altering the composition and pattern of vegetation across the landscape. Many studies of plant and animal community structure could be conducted in our long term cattle and small mammal exclosure experiments.(Mentor: Scott Collins)

Describe and compare plant species richness and abundance across 8 study sites in the various grasslands on the east side of the refuge. These 8 sites are used in the winter to survey for wintering grassland birds, principally Sprauge’s Pipit. We would also like to use these sites to survey breeding grassland birds. We need to understand the plant community on each site and how they differ between sites. Two sites are in predominantly blue gramma sites, two are in mixed blue and black gramma, two are in an intergrade area between short grass prairie and Chihuahuan grassland, and two are in Chihuahuan grassland. (Mentor: Kathy Granillo)

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