Blois Paleoecology Lab

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Vernal Pools: scouting for research sites!

IMG_0030This Presidents’ day, the Blois lab decided to put the day off school to good use—to get a jump on some research! We will soon be starting a project sampling small mammals at the Vernal Pools reserve, located right behind UCM. This project will have two purposes: to give the reserve managers an idea of what species are present and in what abundances, and so our lab can conduct a live/dead analysis* on the species at the reserve. We are going to be live-trapping small mammals and collecting the dead ones we find nearby (in this place, dead small mammals are mostly found in the form of owl pellets, which we have been collecting from the reserve for some time).

But before we can start, we have to find places where we can set up traps and have a good chance of finding raptor pellets. Beginning that task was Monday’s mission. We identified a few possible places, found some bones (but unfortunately no pellets), and had a lot of fun exploring the reserve.
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*A live-dead analysis is a comparison of the species and their relative abundances that are found alive on the landscape to what is found dead. These analyses are used to calibrate reconstructions of past animal communities. Sometimes due to where and how different animals die, we find very different numbers of them preserved in the fossil record than would have actually been present on the landscape. Comparing live populations to abundances of dead organisms allows us to identify discrepancies between the two, and adjust our estimates of past animal communities accordingly.
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