Blois Paleoecology Lab

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California natural history

All members of the Blois Paleoecology lab are also involved in understanding more about the mammals in our local region. We work on a few projects targeted at understanding relationships among species and between species and the environment.

Mammals of the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve
We are amazingly lucky to have a 6500-acre protected reserve immediately adjacent to campus. Besides taking classes out to the reserve, the Blois lab initiated long-term small mammal monitoring on the reserve in Spring 2015*. We have three live-trapping arrays set up on the reserve and sample the small mammal community at multiple points throughout the year. We couple our live-trapping efforts with raptor pellet collections. Our aims in this project are to 1) understand the taxonomic and population genetic structure of the small mammal community on the reserve and 2) understand how the living small mammal community differs from the “dead” small mammal community documented through remains contained in the raptor pellets. This project provides an opportunity to generate a comprehensive baseline of the small mammal community on the VPGNR, understand whether fine-scale population genetic structure exists within species across space and through time (via comparison of animal and bone tissues), and understand which small mammals are likely to be present in fossil deposits in the region.

This project also provides opportunities for training: to train grad students and undergraduates alike in how to live-trap and handle small mammals, to train students in pellet processing and bone identification, and also in molecular and isotopic analyses.

Great gray owl diets of Yosemite National Park
In summer 2013, REU students Azucena Lucatero and Kurt Zias worked on two related projects with Jessica and YNP Wildlife Biologist Sarah Stock. First, we were interested in how the Rim Fire influenced Great Gray Owl prey and second, assessing agreement between the live and dead small mammal community of the Park. To do this, Kurt worked with the Great Gray Owl survey crew (and sometimes Azucena and Jessica) to collect pellets primarily from Great Gray Owls, but also from other raptors as available. Azucena then identified the mammal bones found in the pellets. Work on this project is still ongoing!

*After all appropriate state and local permits were attained!

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