The Conservation Program advises and collaborates with students on research from across academic stages and backgrounds. Projects have ranged from observing small mammals and birds to analyzing amphibian disease data and creating robots for checking out California tiger salamanders in burrows. Here are a few highlights from student-led ecological research:
When she's not busy winning national cross country and track accolades, Fiona O'Keeffe might be found staring at holes in the ground. The Earth Systems undergraduate decided to explore ecological research for her senior capstone when she learned that a badger had been spotted at the Dish, and wondered how prevalent burrowing mammals were around campus. She laid out transects with the Conservation Program at the Dish throughout the winter of 2020, and quantified the number and locations of hundreds of ground squirrel, vole, gopher, and badger burrows.
Her data lays the groundwork for lots of important conservation questions, especially because threatened California tiger salamanders live in abandoned ground squirrel burrows for most of the year. “It’s surprising once you start looking how many burrows you notice. That was part of the appeal of it—an opportunity to do science in a very applied way," she said. "I was excited to be part of a bigger project and get some good mentorship as well."